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Advent 3 – Waiting in the Darkness

2012 December 16
by Julie Clawson

“If it wasn’t for the night
So cold this time of year
The stars would never shine so bright
So beautiful and clear”
– David Wilcox “If it Wasn’t for the Night”

The night isn’t just the in between time. It isn’t just the period of space where one is simply waiting for the day to return. We need the night, that time of darkness where it seems like all hope is lost to learn how to see the beauty that is already there. The stars can only be seen at night and we can miss that if we fear the darkness.

I want to affirm those treasures in times of darkness. That there are truths to be revealed, hopes to be discovered, and peace to be found even when we are not surrounded by the comforting presence of the light.

And then Connecticut happens.

Even as I struggle to find peace in the darkness, I can’t even pretend to find hope in that. I know some can conjure up platitudes of “God has a plan” or “All things work for the good” but even the most shallow and saccharine of Christians know such to be lies we tell ourselves so that we don’t actually have to face the horrors of the darkness.

What are we waiting for, eagerly expecting in light of this?

I had a teacher once who had a countdown calendar to the end of the school year. Each day she would cross off a box on the calendar until she reached much anticipated the end of the school year. On that last day, the day the school year ended, her teenage daughter was killed in a car crash. All the teacher could think was that she had been counting down, eagerly anticipating the day of her daughter’s death.

Are we prepared to wait in the darkness? For the darkness?

If it wasn’t for the night – what? Yes, the stars shine bright, but they are still cold, distant, and unfathomable. Are we prepared to wait in a place we don’t understand, for something we will not comprehend, and let the pain of that place shape us without us trying to shape it into a manageable fragment of itself?

Darkness is real. We need it, but we most certainly can’t deny it. It is there inviting us to wrestle with what it holds in its depths. It is there waiting to break our hip as we demand it answer our questions. We are fools to think we can understand it but even greater fools to ignore it. It is in this darkness that we find God – sometimes offering possibility and beauty, but more often than not simply residing there in solidarity with those suffering in its midst.

I find no hope in events like this school shooting. I find no hope in thinking that it is part of God’s plan or that God can acquire glory from it. Those lies are ultimately hopeless. All I can do is know that God is in that darkness suffering there too. I cannot anticipate a coming Advent, but I can wait in the darkness – sit in communion in the place God already dwells. It is more a waiting with God in the darkness that a waiting for God to skip over the darkness that is the reality of so many of our lives.


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