As I perused the Advent hymns looking for something to write about this month, this hymn caught my attention. Its plaintive melody is similar to other Advent hymns and evokes a contemplative mood which is appropriate for this Advent season. Advent is often an overlooked season, especially when living in today’s society. With radio stations blasting Christmas music as early as Thanksgiving, and stores full of candy, presents, and festive decorations, it can be hard to remember the plainer season of Advent which draws our attention not only to the wonderful coming of Christ, but also to our fallen, sinful condition which was the reason Christ needed to come in the first place.
The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far. Let songs of praise ascending now greet the Morning Star! All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain, God’s radiant Star now brightens and bids you sing again.- LSB 337 v.1
In these days, it is hard to miss the darkness that surrounds this world. The stories of violence, famine, disease, and death that we hear are not new, and they will continue to exist long after we are gone. However, it can be exhausting to look around and see the pain and suffering caused by Sin, Death, and the Devil and through our own sinful thoughts and actions. We cannot find hope or comfort in this world because there is nothing but darkness. However, the prophet Isaiah presents us with a glimmer of hope: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). This light, as we know, is Christ Jesus who came into our world of darkness with the light of salvation and His Word. Christ’s light pierces the darkness of this world and brings hope and comfort to all who are struggling under the weight of their sin, or who are grieving the consequences of sin.
God dwells with us in darkness and makes the night as day; yet we resist the brightness and turn from God away. But grace does not forsake us, however far we run. God claims us still as children through Mary’s infant son.- LSB 337 v.5
However, even though Christ has come into the world with the light of hope and salvation, we who have walked in darkness for so long often despise the light for the uncomfortable truths it reveals. We do not like being confronted with our sin or the reality that we cannot save ourselves from our sin. We are not comfortable with the truth that we love, serve, and obey things other then God, and would rather spend Sunday morning sleeping, or watching TV rather than sitting in church and receiving God’s gifts. We actively run away from God, sprinting to other idols and hiding ourselves from the light. We are dead, deserving nothing but God’s eternal wrath for all our sins of thought, word, and deed.
But grace does not forsake us. What better comfort do we have than this? What could be better than knowing that when we run, when we fall away, when we doubt, and when we are lost in grief that God’s grace is always present and will always be there to sustain us. God has washed us clean in Baptism and claimed us as His children for all eternity. Not just for the times when we feel like we are doing the right thing or when things are going well for us. No! He is there as well in the times when we do falter. He will hold on to us because we are already His through Christ: the child whose coming we prepare for both at Christmas and at the end of the world.