The Season of Lent gets its name from a truncated version of the Old English word for Spring. Etymologically, it is thought that the English words has its root in the Old Germanic word that means “longer,” such that it is the season of lengthening days. This makes sense, practically speaking, since Easter falls on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox (first day of spring), or roughly right near the mid-point of the sunlit portion of our days getting longer. Advent, on the other hand, is mostly made up of deepening darkness. Christmas always falls on December 25th, which means that all but four days of the Advent Season come before the winter solstice. Here in Bowling Green, that means Advent is spent in more than 14 hours of darkness. A December 18th new moon will make for a stark reminder of the growing night.
It makes sense, then, that one of the themes we hear about in Advent is the juxtaposition between dark and light. The Collect for Advent 1 sets the tone for the whole season when it opens with these words, “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light…” The Seasonal Blessing from the Book of Occasional Services highlights this as well. “May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God…”
The clear reminder of this interplay between dark and light came to me this morning as I read the Psalm appointed for Advent 1, with its ongoing refrain as a prayer to God from those who find themselves in deep darkness.
Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
In the growing darkness of the coming winter, our prayer to God is that we might see the light of God’s face, the unending support of the God by whose grace we are saved, made whole, and restored to right relationship. This prayer seems particularly poignant this year as the world seems to be a darker place, each day bringing a new danger, further polarization, and heightening fear. My prayer this season of Advent will be a prayer for light. I think the Advent Blessing will be my mantra, asking in this time of darkness, that my daily bread might be the Sun of Righteousness shining upon the right pathways.
As you prepare for Advent this year, Dear Reader, it will be my prayer for you as well. May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path.