By Gail Heidtke
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79
These days of Advent, these days of December are some of the shortest days, the longest nights of our year.
How will we learn to walk thought the darkness of this advent time, till we come to sing O holy night!?
I think in some sense we can learn to walk in the darkness. We know it already. Some of you grew up in the city and played outside on summer evenings. Folks have told me about the good old days when, as kids, you played with friends in the old neighborhood outside on the long summer evenings, without hesitancy without fear. And there was a signal about when you had to head home… when the streetlights came on you and all the rest of the kids knew you had to head home, as the shadows lengthened and the night, the darkness came. I think we can learn signals like these for our lives in this advent time. When the darkness stretches, when first light of the advent candle is lit, we can learn to find our way through holy darkness to the light of the Christ.
Sometimes we feel lonely and afraid, uncertain of how to move forward. We long for the light but the shadows lengthen and fall and we may not be able to see our way forward. We can learn to walk in the dark, to claim it as good, to acknowledge that it is good to walk through the darkness, good to trust in God’s care, good to move forward in the night to the holy night.
I didn’t grow up in the city. I was a country gal, growing up in rural Wisconsin on a farm. I rode the bus to school, about 10 miles, and again home. And when I was in high school there were lots of after school activities I was a part of. There was a late bus for us country kids that drove all around delivering us home, often dropping me off at the top of the driveway around 6 pm – in the dark. It was a long farm driveway, probably three football fields in length, gravel, uncertain footing. Dark as dark can be. The only light was that of the porch light on the house up ahead. I walked the length home, walked toward that porch light. But after many of these walks I learned something. I learned if I looked directly at the light – it was good I knew where to head- but if I focused only on the light, I would not be able to see or sense my surroundings, or the gravel path. My eyes were so tuned to the light it was all I could see. When I looked away from the direct brightness, I found my eyes would become acclimated to the path on the driveway, the trees along the way, I could see and sense more than when I looked directly into the bright glare. I could see in the darkness and arrive safely home.
I think as God’s people we can learn to walk in the darkness. To claim it as good, to enter into what is yet to come. In this advent time, in this time of holy darkness we can put our hand into the hand of God. And we can reach for that tiny hand of the child in the manger and know grace and truth and life in him.
As we come to the end of the calendar year, we look forward to the year ahead, to what is yet to come. We plan for and move forward to the future. With our gifts and offerings for Katie’s Fund, we plan for the future, to support the next 100 years of mission and ministry of the Women of the ELCA. This Fund, honoring the life of Katharine von Bora Luther, supports efforts for global connections, leadership development, and living theology.
Let us plan for, work for, and move forward into the future, sharing together.
God of light and darkness, walk with us in these December days, and through all our days and nights, into the future. We offer our prayers and gifts with hope for all that is to come., in the name of Jesus, the child in the manger, and Lord of our lives. Amen.
The Rev. Gail Heidtke is a retired ELCA pastor living in Palatine, IL.