Hear the word of the Lord from Isaiah:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
There is no Yuletide sentimentality in Advent. Peace will not come by wishing for it. Peace will not come by imagining it. Peace will not come by God waving a magic wand over it.
No, peace will come by God wielding a scepter—and a sword. Peace will come only in the drastic rearranging of the deranged, and if that sounds violent, it is. Today’s passage follows a prophetic promise of doom in chapter 59, that God’s justice will arrive like a hurricane.
So today’s promise of light, the almost-unbelievable promise that we ourselves can shine as we reflect the brilliance of the shaft streaming down on us from God’s kindly face, is breathtaking. Indeed, it is breath-giving as life and light come to the dying and dark.
We cannot possibly disperse the choking murk of the accumulated smog of millennia of sin—our own and others’. We cannot venture a single step in confidence, given our moral blindness and a world system we simply cannot trust for justice.
But God can blow the miasma away and leave only fresh air. God can roll back the clouds and let the sunshine in. And he will do so upon his own people for the benefit of all people.
God has shone his light in our hearts, the apostle affirms (II Cor. 4:6), “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The shekinah is here, now, in each of us filled with the very Spirit of God.
Let us look around, then, at the gloom in which our world is submerged. Let us reflect on the stifling darkness that once stuffed our hearts and still takes up too much space. And let us petition the Wind/Breath/Spirit of God to blow through us all again.
(The preceding was my contribution to Regent College’s new Advent reader, Looking, Longing, and Living, available here.)