Advent devotion: Love’s pure light
One vivid memory I have of church growing up is singing “Silent Night” while everyone in the congregation held a candle. My Nana made sure that we sang the first verse in German (Stille Nacht, helige Nacht). And although we sing this hymn year after year, the phrase that continues to stir me occurs in the second verse, “Son of God, love’s pure light.”
This beautiful turn of phrase, “Love’s pure light” feels like Christmas. It captures imagery from the stories of Jesus’ birth, like the bright star which guides the shepherds to the young family. It reminds us of Christmas lights, evokes feelings of hope and clarity, and echoes the Gospel of John’s opening ballad to the coming of Christ: “…the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world.”
It’s easy to understate the significant choice of “light” as a metaphor for Jesus, but it fundamentally defines who Jesus is and what Jesus means to the world. Because we are waiting for Christ’s return we know that we don’t live in perfect world. The evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, war, illness, poverty, and grief are far too prevalent and real. But because Jesus came as love’s pure light, the shadows of our darkness will never win. The way Jesus moves and acts in the world is light shining into darkness – it is our hope in the midst of despair.
The light shines in the darkness…and the darkness did not overcome it. This is what we celebrate on this Christmas day: God breaking into our weary world, in the most human way possible, assuring us that even on the longest of nights and in our darkest of days, there will always be a flicker of light continuing to shine.
Kelsey Fitting-Snyder is a pastor in residency at St. Paul.