Advent is the season of lights. The shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere at least) falls just as Christmas finally arrives. The darkness is what drew the attention of the early drafters of the Christian calendar, and the slow but inevitable return of daylight following the winter solstice. “Light one candle to watch for Messiah; let the light banish darkness” we will sing on our first Sunday of Advent.
The heart of authentic spiritual practice involves the experience of “enlightenment,” coming to see and to know the truth that has formerly been hidden. Consider this rabbinic parable: An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun. “Could it be,” asked one of the students, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it’s a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi. Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s a fig tree or a peach tree?” “No,” the rabbi answered again. “Then when is it?” the pupils demanded. “It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.”
Again, enlightenment is the goal of religious practice, to come to see and to know the hidden truth and then to live it. Conceptually quite simple really. Troubling, then, why darkness can seem to abound. So, “Light two candles to watch for Messiah…” And three and four until enlightenment comes for certain.
Prayer: Holy God, help us to see and to know the truth and to live it. Amen.