The Song of the Coming of Light | 1st Sunday of Advent

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent
2 December 2018
Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus

I’ve turned out the lights. Close your eyes.

Open them slowly, and let yourself be here, in this darkness.

Do you see the light? The tiny light? Do you see the tiny, brilliant light, shining from the evergreen circle?

A light is coming. But, for now, it is dark.

Those of you sitting in front are quite close to the light; others in the back are quite far. Isn’t this our experience as we begin Advent? For some, the coming of the light feels like a given; of course he will come. For others, the coming of the light feels like the stuff of stories from faraway; there is no light for me.

What are you looking for? What are you waiting for? And where will it come from? When will you find it?

We’ve said before that this is the most addicted, medicated, overweight, depressed cohort of humans to walk planet earth. If self-help programs and special diets were going to work, they would have worked by now.

Equations will not save us. There is not an equation at the heart of all things. In the heart of man, and in the heart of the cosmos, there is not an equation or a wisely worded argument. I think at the heart of man, and at the heart of all things, is not an equation but a song. The song sounds different for each of us, it has different words and different music; perhaps it has no words and no music, but a song it remains.

I suspect it sounds something like this:
O come, O come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear.

But, curiously, the song continues:
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you,
O Israel.

Come, Emmanuel! Come, Lord Jesus! Come into my darkness and shatter my sadness! Come, desire of nations! Come, prince of peace.

Pay attention to where you are singing that song from.
Is it coming from your brain? Have you given an intellectual assent to his coming but have no let it affect you?
Is it coming from your throat? Do you long for his coming only by straining and working, but lack understanding or sentiment?
Is it coming from your heart? Do you weep at the idea of his coming but never show it in thought or deed?

None of these are bad in themselves, but each one is lacking. My prayer for us is that Christmas will find us singing our song from a different place, a place of integration and wholeness. Let’s not cry out for the coming of the light, let’s not plead for the Messiah to come from our hearts, throats, or heads; let us cry out to him from the very pit of our stomachs, from the core of everything we are.

For now, let us sit in our darkened church. This familiar place, which we see tonight in a new way. By doing so, we will learn the first lesson of Advent: that not all darkness is scary; not all darkness contains fear, crisis, abandonment, or pain. This darkness, for example, and the darkness of the night in Bethlehem during which the Savior came to birth, is a darkness of peace. It is expectant, pregnant, full of hope. In this darkness, look again toward to the one burning candle which soon will be two, and soon will be three, and after that four. Soon we won’t need candles or lights, because the Messiah will be born among us and all we’ll know is light.

O come, O come Emmanuel!
And ransom captive Joliet
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you,
O Joliet.

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