Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world
The praises of Advent in the quiet darkness of nature’s year belong to the blessings of Christmas. They are God’s readying Word for us in preparation for his being with us and so they must be about his Word in us. The preparations of Advent are not only God’s doings for us, but also his work in us. Advent signals the great wonder of the Christian faith. Emmanuel, God with us, comes to us so that his life may live and take shape in us. The praises of Advent are God’s songs in the hearts of his people.
But what are those praises? In the watching and the waiting of Advent, we praise even the darkness; such is the purposeful expectancy of Advent.
On the darkest day of nature’s year we look to the coming of the light in a spirit quite removed from the forms of paganism both new and old. Our waiting is a waiting expectantly and not in the fear and the anxiety that, perhaps, just perhaps, the sun will not rise and that, perhaps, just perhaps, the days will not increase and that, perhaps, just perhaps, we must sacrifice ourselves to the order of nature to insure that the wheel of life rolls on. Our waiting is the counter to the greater darkness of despair and disillusionment that belongs to the fearful uncertainties of our utter hopelessness, the malaise of our contemporary world.
No. The greater darkness of the Advent season has far more to do with our spiritual lives than merely the physical phenomenon of the winter solstice. The darkness is about the forms of spiritual wickedness and folly in each of our lives, individually and collectively: “the far-spent night,” we might say, of our rebellion and revolt; “the far-spent night” of our turning away from the light of God’s Word in law and prophecy, in nature and in human experience; “the far-spent night” of the terrors of despair and destruction. But to be aware of this is part and parcel of the meaning and purpose of the Advent season. It means, strange to say, to praise the darkness.