As the Dark Awaits the Dawn- an Advent devotional for Dec. 6, 2017

This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to. 

It’s a lovely morning here in Nebraska. On my drive in to the office though, I heard that there is a chance of snow or rain showers later today. We’ll see, because right now, all I see are blue skies. As it is Wednesday, this evening my congregation (like many others) will gather for supper and mid-week Advent worship. With this in mind, the Advent hymn, “As the Dark Awaits the Dawn” comes to mind. The text was written by Susan Palo Cherwien, and it is set to a beautiful melody by Carl Schalk, who also arranged one of my favorite Christmas choral pieces, “Behold the Marvel of this Night.”

As the dark awaits the dawn, so we await your light. 
O Star of promise, scatter night, loving bright, loving bright,
till shades of fear are gone. 

As the nights continue to grow longer in the northern hemisphere, and as they seem to get colder (at least here in Nebraska), this text takes on more meaning. The star, is a sign of hope and promise beaming down light in the midst of a cold evening. Both in terms of head and heart stuff, the fears and anxieties I sense in the world are only increasing. (For example, moving the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, could well open up more chaos and conflict- especially as Jews, Christians, and Muslims all hold the city as holy.) The hope is that the “Star of promise,” will dispel the fears and anxieties.

As the blue expectant hour before the silvering skies,
we long to see your day arise, whole and wise, whole and wise,
O lucent Morning Star. 

“Star of Promise, scatter night… O lucent Morning Star.” – A seasonal star in my office.

“We long to see your day arise, whole and wise…” Some holy wisdom now would be greatly appreciated. I am sure I am not alone in this. I appreciate these words though because they do a good job of orienting and reorienting us in our relationship with God, but also of putting our wisdom and knowledge into perspective.

As the moon reflects the sun until the night’s decrease,
may we your healing light release, living peace, living peace,
unto your holy dawn. 

Allison and I live in the most rural setting really that we have ever lived in. It took awhile to find our rhythm, but after a year I know that I have greatly come to appreciate the peace that I find there. When it’s not too windy or cold, going out for a morning or evening walk can be so peaceful along the country roads seeing the fields and horizon. With the Christmas lights up on a non-windy evening, it’s just so beautiful seeing those lights as well as the fields lit up by the moon and stars. There is a peace here that I haven’t felt as consistently anywhere else that I have lived. Life is put into a nice perspective it would seem. 

Shine your future on this place, enlighten every guest,
that through us stream your holiness, bright and blest, bright and blest;
come dawn, O Sun of grace. 

“Shine your future,” makes me think of God’s kingdom breaking into the world, little by little. We see glimpses of it in the ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, if we allow ourselves to listen and be present. This evening, as I gather with friends and sisters and brothers for mid-week worship, I hope that we all are able to feel a sense of God’s peace among the busyness of the season. I also hope that we’ll share a sense of God’s love filling us and sending us out, to point to those places where God’s light is streaming and God is present and up to something.


Credit/Reference: Susan Palo Cherwien, Carl F. Schalk, “As the Dark Awaits the Dawn,” 1996, 1997, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 261, OneLicense.

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