Many are familiar with the Chinese saying, “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” I’m sorry. I will light two candles on this second Sunday in Advent and you should know I curse the darkness. I have hope like never before.
Darkness is not just about being in the dark. It is not about those scary beasts that go bump in the night, nor is it about daylight savings. Look at the darkness as a time in our day, or a season in our lives, where we have trouble seeing and our vision for life is impaired. Such a time taps into our vulnerability and weakness. We do not put our best foot forward.
Physical darkness is something we can all readily identify with, but there is a far greater dimension to darkness that brings out the negative side within and leaves me cursing. It is the spiritual night. Chills run through us with spiritual darkness because there is more than just a gloomy dismal side. Don’t kid yourself. It is not the kind of spirit that hits us in Louisville, when February rolls around and we experience SDS (sun deprived syndrome).
Author, Elie Wiessel wrote about spiritual darkness in his little book Night as he described the evil that held captive the minds and hearts of the Germans during the horror of the holocaust and World War II. Such a time and period in history was not about simply lighting a candle. It was about an entire generation willing to curse and confront the darkness.
I bring this up not to bring you down. We begin the second week of Advent. We have lit the first candle. I curse the darkness because from a spiritual perspective the night is a metaphor or way of describing the devil. Whether you accept this reality of the devil or not, surely you can at least consider evil. I am sick and tired of reading about shootings at a Walmart, or football players in Charlottesville and the bizarre slaying of college students in Idaho. Added to these tragedies is the constant barrage of killings and shooting in our major cities. So, yes, I have anger within to curse the darkness as I light the candles of my Advent Wreath. There is a light representing the prophetic vision of Isaiah who saw “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) as well as the fulfillment of this vision revealed in the words of John the Baptist who calls upon us to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3).
This, of course, is the hope celebrated at Christmas and for now it is hope that is an expectation during Advent waiting to be realized. Hope is powerful because of the expectation and the anticipation of something good entering our lives and our world. It is just enough hope to get us through the darkness and confront the evil surrounding us while we wait…wait for the good, wait for God, and wait for Jesus to be born anew…while we curse.
Hope is even greater than today or tomorrow. There is about us an eternal hope. I am reminded this Advent of a quote from the Quaker scholar, Thomas Kelly, who writes in his classic, A Testament of Devotion “Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our torn-time lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto itself.”
The words are from the chapter, “Inner light.” Light the second candle. And have faith.