Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent 4 Tuesday: O Oriens

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, Sun of justice: Come, shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. Come, Lord Jesus.

On the longest night our longing turns towards the dawn.

In our day this night was marked by a full lunar eclipse, the first time the solstice has coincided with that celestial event since the 1600's. In my neck of the deep dark woods, there was too much cloud cover to be able to see. But for many this longest night offered a view of even the moon being extinguished, and the optical illusion created under these conditions that the stars around the moon are falling. At the sub-rational level, it feels like the end of all things.

But it is not the end of all things. It is, instead, the turning point. Beginning today the days will lengthen, slowly, incrementally, almost imperceptibly. So imperceptibly that the church, in a rare display of self-deprecating humor, celebrates this day that well-known "doubter," the apostle Thomas. I can only assume that, either we are celebrating him because we can revel in being for faithful because we are sure we know what's coming, or, perhaps more charitably, we know that Thomas knows that the Light truly is returning, has returned.

I offer you a poem by the wonderful Madeleine L'Engle, who, thanks to her marvelous book, "WinterSongs," has become an essential part of my Advent celebrations.

O come O come Emmanuel
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O Child conceived by heaven's power,
give me Thy strength: it is the hour.

O Come thou Wisdom from on high
like any babe, at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth
was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come thou Lord of might
whose birth came hastily at night;
born in the stable, in blood and pain,
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou rod of Jesse's stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come,
and open the door to my heart-home.
I cannot love thee as a king--
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come, thou Day-spring from on high,
I saw the signs that marked the sky.
I heard the beat of angel's wings;
I saw the shepherds and the kings.

O come, desire of nations, be
simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
God's Son, God's Self, with us to dwell.

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