From the Rector
Advent 1: Lights, Music, and a World Hungry for Christmas

I’m sure by now you’re feeling the effects of shorter days and longer nights. By the time we reach the winter equinox on December 21, there will be less than 10 hours of sunlight in the day, which for sun-lovers like me is not very much. The upside of all that extra darkness is that I find myself looking up more often at the night sky. To this day I still remember the first moonless night I spent out in the country, and realizing that the night sky was not a plain piece of darkness. It is an awesome assemblage of twinkling light that can hold the attention of even the smallest boy for hours. The long night means you can be filled with awe and wonder by the brightness of the celestial bodies, and remember the Light who shines in the darkness, whom no darkness can put out (John 1).
I suppose this is also why I love Christmas lights. Most years Melody and I are typically too busy in December to get any lights on our own home, but I enjoy seeing the lights put up every year around this time. They represent a spirit of hope and a yearning for joy. And while we may not put up our Christmas tree until much closer to the day, I still enjoy driving down the street and seeing all my neighbors’ trees brightly lit in the dark night. The twinkling lights are like little pin pricks of hope in a darkened world.
My friend Scott Gunn recently wrote a great piece in which he expressed gratitude for Christmas decorations and music at the mall. Rather than feeling frustrated about the hijacking of Christmas (not to mention the skipping altogether of Advent) into an extended shopping season, we can embrace the possibilities created by a world that, for about a month, is more open than ever to the Christian story of grace and love. “It is not secular culture’s job to keep Christian feasts,” he wrote, “that is what the church is for. And we might complain that ‘our’ holiday has been hijacked by commerce. That is true, but there is also another way to look at it…Every year around this time, we Christians get a free boost from commerce. Our gift is that we have many opportunities to invite people to celebrate Christmas at church, where it’s meant to be celebrated. We can tell the amazing story of Christmas over and over. We can bask in the ‘Christmas spirit,’ which isn’t all that different from the ‘Christian spirit.'”
We need more hope and wonder in our lives, not less. We need more Christmas – and by extension, Christ – in our world, not less. So instead of resenting the short days, enjoy the long nights and all the lights twinkling as symbols of hope. Instead of grumbling about the decorations and music that come earlier and earlier, embrace the way that our society is expressing its yearning for something bigger and grander than our current reality. We have a story to offer – a story of God’s remarkable, miraculous, life-changing love – and the world is open to it. Let’s be ready to share it this month, and beyond.