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People, Look East

Sunrises and sunsets in north Texas recently have been nothing short of spectacular. Many people assume that the prettiest sunsets are in the summer, but as a compulsive observer of the horizon, I can assure you that they arrive in the darkest parts of winter. Even if you are not a nature lover, you no doubt have wrestled occasionally with the blinding sunlight on your morning or evening commute. When the star that produces that light lies on the horizon, the results can be stunning.

There is a meteorological reason for all of this, but what interests me today are the theological musings that arise. For the last several years I have been fascinated by the fact that, in the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the arrival of Jesus at the darkest moment of the year. Well, almost. Technically, the darkest moment will be the winter solstice, which arrives at 10:19 PM central time on December 21st. But let’s not quibble over seconds. Our celebration of the birth of Jesus will be shrouded in darkness, a moment on the calendar that signifies the “dead of winter.” And yet, we will raise candles and celebrate the arrival of the child of light and life. We will read from John’s gospel: “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” (The Message)

There is a wonderful Advent hymn called People, Look East. The third verse references both the darkness and the hope that is represented by the star of Bethlehem: “Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim, one more light the bowl shall brim, shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as sun and moon together. People, look east; Love, the star, is on the way.”

It is in the darkest moments of the season, and the darkest moments of life, that the light of God’s love shines the brightest. May it be so for you.

Rev. Don Underwood