Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
The week began with the shortest, the darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. It will end with the Christ Light. Advent, a time of waiting and expectation on the Christian calendar, draws to an end. The pandemic of 2020 has been one long Winter Solstice for so many people. My small life of retirement has grown even quieter. I have turned inward to explore unmet dreams, regrets of lost years, and the realization of life’s impermanence. The injustice that permeates the lives of the poor, the displaced, and the oppressed has become for me emblematic of the dark streets of Bethlehem. I have been wandering these streets for many months in search of light.
On the four Sundays of Advent, we light a candle. Each candle represents what humans search for all their lives: hope, faith, joy, and peace. These desires are universal and are not changed by anyone’s religiosity or lack of it. Those in poverty or living in affluence want lives full of these attributes. The masters and the slaves want these things. The lost and the found want these things. It is with great expectation that we light these candles, but they will not come alive without the Light. On Christmas Day we light our final candle. It is the white Christ candle and suddenly our Advent wreaths are blazing and alive and real.
We need that Light going forward in 2021. There are stark needs on these dark streets. We must come together in groups, large and small, most especially in our churches, and build the trust to turn the Light on these needs. We can use the Light’s power to be honest, to own our own part in the darkness, and the way forward will emerge. The dark streets will be ablaze so that faith, hope, joy, and peace will be a possibility for all!