Advent is a drama set in four acts. The first act is set in darkness, and we are drawn back to a time when the world was in such a state that people believed it was coming to an end. The hymn often used to inaugurate the season of Advent is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The hymn begins:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns and lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
There are seven verses in this hymn, which has its origins over 1,200 years ago in monastic life in the 8th or 9th century! Here’s the sixth verse:
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thy justice here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Do you know what a dayspring is? It’s a beautiful word. I am so glad that it was adopted as the name of our church when the people of Christ Chapel UMC moved to Elliot Rd. The dayspring is the dawn. It represents hope. As Victor Hugo writes in one of my favorite books, Les Misérables, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” So in the season of Advent – the drama of darkness and light – Jesus is the Dayspring, and we sit in darkness and wait for his coming, the coming of light into our world.
Onto the stage the 2nd Sunday of Advent strides John the Baptist, announcing that he is the one who has come to prepare the way for the Messiah. Then the 3rd Sunday, there is more light, and the scene is now Rejoice! For the Lord is at hand! The 4th Sunday still more light comes into the world with the Annunciation to Mary that she is about to give birth to Jesus.
Then on Christmas Day the Christ candle in the middle of our Advent wreath will be lit as we celebrate the Dayspring, the light that has come into the darkness of this world and the darkness could not overcome it.
What a marvelous drama. I cannot understand how people can go through these weeks without appreciating the drama and meaning, the depth and richness of the season of Advent. I would think that the celebration of Christmas would be so shallow without approaching it this way. These metaphors of darkness and light, the images of hope and expectation, and the marvelous Scripture, including Rejoice! For the Lord is at hand!
I would imagine there are those of us or some you may know, who sit in lonely exile, in deep darkness. Especially during this pandemic. So for many, darkness is not a metaphor of a time 2000 years ago, it is a description of life right now. Together, let us prepare to be the Dayspring for our world, hope embodied, indeed, the body of Christ offered for the world!