Today’s Gospel reading states that “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (John 1:6-8). And on this third Sunday of Advent, in the midst of great global darkness, it helps me to remember that I myself am not the Light, nor am I supposed to be. Just like John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was coming soon to rescue us all, we are here to testify to the Light of Christ, who came to “bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,” as Isaiah 61 so radically reminds us further on in today’s readings.
I’ve been thinking a lot about light in the darkness these days. I can’t read the news or open an app, or really even cuddle my babies without thinking about how violence seems to persist everywhere I look, in every story I read. I often feel helpless, even hopeless against the deluge of suffering and death and injustice. So then, what does Advent really mean for us when it seems like dark is winning over the light everywhere we look? When we don’t yet see the brokenhearted healed or the captives liberated?
Throughout my life, when I am groping blindly in the darkness of the world’s pain, I have always tried to look to the Eyes who see above the maze of our present confusion, to the One who knows how it’s all going to go, who understands how the twists turn into wide open spaces of healing and hope, and who shines out traces of light to those hemmed in the shadows of the hedge wall. The thought of God Who Sees Above has swaddled my fears and steadied my breath, tragedy after tragedy, year after year. God who is above the fray brings me peace when I am in it. I think how God holds the past, present and future in Their hands, and Their love cradles us all.
But if I’m honest, I find myself questioning now like never before. If God can envisage the entire stretch of the maze of life, then God can also hear the screams and feel the bombs’ blast and witness the lifeblood drain out of innocents’ bodies. Even though I am lucky enough to exist in a place of relative safety and peace, still the tensed tendons of my grieving body scream out, Don’t remain the God above. Get in the fray, for the love of us all. Stop the madness of humanity, quell the hate, cease the fire, rescue the abandoned.
Yet I take a shaking breath and force myself to remember that God didn’t stay above it all. As the season of Advent poignantly reminds us, Jesus is literally God made human. Jesus was birthed into pain and wiped tearful faces and healed broken bodies and listened and saw and responded, even as He himself experienced pain and sadness and brokenness. He was present to us in all His humanness AND all His God-fullness. Then God came to us in Spirit form, and even now remains in the fray, inhabiting all of us who breathe Divine Presence in. Jesus coming as savior is not supposed to be just a metaphorical image, a distant comfort. Every year, Advent reminds us that Emmanuel, God with us, is here in the fray, holding us up through the shadows of the maze even while knowing exactly where it all leads. And so I am choosing (though it is still difficult) to call out to to the God of Mercy and believe that even now God is bringing “glad tidings to the poor, heal[ing] the brokenhearted, proclaim[ing] liberty to the captives and releas[ing] the prisoners.”