Romans 13:11 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! (The Message) This year, the four-week season of Advent begins on November 28th. It’s two lines crossing, one line heading up, the other down. Our cultural religion is turning the lights up, up, up to full brightness. We’re encouraged to be busy, surface-level Christmas consumers. In the bright light, but sleeping. Meanwhile, the trajectory of our inner life during Advent is meant to be downwards. Deepwards. Our tradition invites us into darkness, reflection, mystery, and even fasting as we go deeper in hopes of seeing the faint light grow ever so slightly brighter.

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The painful bright

Romans 13:11 The hour has come for you to wake up. It is the first Sunday of Advent. We begin our vigil, waiting for the light. Sometimes I feel ambivalent about the coming of the light. When the light comes, justice will come; when justice comes, I might be found on the wrong side of the equation. In what ways do I oppress others with hardly a conscious thought? In what ways do I need to wake up to my own subtle ways of using and injuring others? Today I have a new thought about the coming of the light and another reason to feel ambivalent: Not all of us want to be in the light at all, and it’s not because we purchase clothes made in sweat shops, or whatever else I was alluding to in the paragraph above. Much closer to home, in our emotional lives and our […]

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Luke 1:35 … and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. On the surface, fame; deeper down, obscurity. The angel has just told Mary that she will be famous, and she wonders how this will come about, given her empty state. The angel’s answer? Among other things, Mary will be overshadowed. Overshadowed. Light will be blocked. God’s proximity will throw Mary into darkness. In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I cause light to shine. I also create darkness.” The author comments in verse 15, “You are a God who hides yourself.” This is a puzzling God, alright, whose love for me does not always involve enlightening me or saving me from the terrors of the night. God is not always driven to self-revelation. God is not afraid of darkness, is not anxious to make it go away as fast as possible, and in fact even creates it. And God […]

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