Advent: Waiting for the Lights to Come on in a Power Outage
By Randy Thompson
Winter has arrived early here in our part of New Hampshire. On the plus side, the final stages of leaf raking and fall clean-up were taken care of by the snow. However. . .
We’ve had three significant snow falls in November, and it’s now just barely December, and who knows what December has to offer us. The last snowfall, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, was memorable for several reasons. First, we had nine inches of snow. Secondly, it was the wettest, heaviest snow I’ve ever had to contend with; even our snow thrower, which usually dispatches snow effortlessly thirty feet into the woods, had a hard time with it. Finally, this particular storm was memorably because the power went out for eleven hours. Besides no lights, radio, TV or internet, that means there’s no water from the well and no heat from our propane boiler. (Thank heaven for our woodstove!)
I was able to keep busy for much of the day by removing fallen tree limbs from our driveway so the plow guy could clear it and by digging out the driveway in front of the garage and a walk way to the back door. (The trees took a beating from the wet, heavy snow.) With my work done, or at least as much of it as I could do that day, I came inside. Of course, by then, the sun, short-lived as it nears the winter solstice, was setting, and it was dark and gloomy. The oil lamps helped a bit.
As I sat in the dusky shadows of our living room, trying to read using a flashlight, my thoughts wandered off from my reading. When will the lights go back on, I wondered. How much longer? I knew they would go back on, but had no sense as to when. The power company had been vague on this point, when we reported our outage. There were trees and electrical wires down all over the place, and they had a lot of work to do.
When you sit in the dark, your chief concern is, when will the lights come on again? You still have things to do, of course, and life goes on, but it goes on differently. It goes on in the dark, and you find yourself thinking about–hoping for–the power outage to be over. You want the lights on. You want your radio and TV. You want your internet service! You want hot water or any water at all from the tap.
And, when you sit in the dark and there’s no internet, TV, or radio, and it’s hard to read, you find yourself with fewer distractions, and what distractions there are, you can’t see them in the gloom.
This is the positive side of sitting in semi-darkness. Distractions are not plentiful. You’re forced to come to grips with the shadows that surround you. Yet, God is able to speak in and through shadows.
Sitting in the dark, it struck me that I was unexpectedly experiencing the meaning of Advent, the season of the church year when John the Baptist figures prominently with his call to repent, and when we look ahead not so much to Christ’s birth but to his Second Coming, and when we realize we are living in the time between Christ’s first Advent, which we celebrate at Christmas, and his second Advent, for which we now hope. It is the season when we are repeatedly reminded of the words from John’s Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood [or “overcome”] it” (John 1:5). In short, it’s the time when we hope for the lights to come on, that Christ will return, and there will be light, and a new heaven and a new earth.
We live in a world experiencing a long-term spiritual power outage. The lights are out, and people walk in darkness, alone, hopeless. The lights are out; people too often prefer this darkness. The lights are out, and we are alone in our selfishness, arrogance, greed, and hard-heartedness. We all have eyes, but many see nothing. At least, not God.
Yet, we are not alone, not really. There is a light, shining in this present darkness, shining in the lives of those whose hearts have been warmed by that light and in whose lives it is reflected, shining like oil lamps in dark places. There is hope, as the Gospel of Matthew reminds us:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, along the Jordon,
Galilee of the Gentiles–
the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
(Matthew 4:15-16, Isaiah 9:1-2)
So, there is a light, and though it’s dark out, that light is a dawn light. It’s dark now, but more light is coming, and that light is a person, who was raised from the depths of death’s darkness and will, someday, light up the world, making all things new.
And so we live expectantly, sitting in the shadows of our lives, going about our daily business. We live in the glow of oil lamps, in the certain hope that it’s dawn not dusk, and that the lights will indeed come on, and “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Lady Julian of Norwich, 14th century).
15 thoughts on “Randy Thompson: Advent — Waiting for the Lights to Come on in a Power Outage”
I’m a day late reading this, Randy. Thanks for writing it. Wonderful words of wisdom and insight.
Oh, the Christophers changed too. They are a Roman Catholic organization, and Roman Catholicism, especially in the U.S., has changed a lot since the 1950s.
all the recent fires and storms and floods in our country have brought many Americans to appreciate what we so often take for granted. . . . . AND it has brought us back into ‘community’ in trying to help neighbors and even strangers caught in the difficulties of destruction and loss . . . . . we have a good core sense of what it means to pull together in times of great trial in this country. I hope we never lose that strength.
I’ve thought about that prayer so many times. It gives me hope that the bible is a book of realism never losing sight of our humanity.
This post brought back a long gone memory of a 1950’s TV show called the Christophers . The “opening” of the show and a recurring theme was that if everyone lit one little candle, what a bright world this would be. I googled it and it was as I remembered.
My brother and I would watch “religiously” as there was not a lot of choice and I guess we found it interesting. There were a good group of various people who seemed to be sincere and honest do gooders and I mean that in a good way. This type of program would not find a home on broadcast TV in our today’s world. I guess that is the price of progress. The Christophers did not change , the world did.
Darkness can be a time of loneliness also, finding yourself without normal direction, presence, conversations. Trust becomes more important — trust in that which was once delivered and you felt sure of. Suddenly it’s gone and you find yourself grasping at dark air. How can you place your trust in nothingness?
With just a bit of light you find yourself feeling the terror of shadows. Yet that small light is all there is, at least for the moment. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow … thou art with me.”
I just bought a generator. Funny. I looked at this post this morning and then went to work. I started typing my comment to Robert this morning and then ran out of time so I just finished it now. It’s kind of funny that then I went and bought a generator. I just now had time to look at this again and remembered it was about the lights going out.
One of the most solid and honest prayers ever noted in scripture: “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” I’m not a superstar. I can barely muster up a prayer. Not sure if I’m speaking to the void but I’m speaking. Plaease take me where I am.
Robert, I find it helpful in really dark times to remember previous dark times, and how, sooner or later, they gave way to some sort of light. I now try to remember these times when it isn’t dark, as it nourishes my hope when it again gets dark, which it inevitably will, at some point.
Yes, there are many who’ve had to deal with power outages a lot longer than ours.
We missed the big ice storm here, ten or twelve years ago, when folks were without power for two weeks. A neighbor told me about getting water from an old well out in the woods below us. I’ve always meant to go looking for it, but haven’t gotten around to it.
It’s an unfortunate, sad thing that sometimes, in the darkest of times, it’s hard to believe or hope that the light will ever return. In those times, one prays for the fortitude and ability to go on in the darkness, absent the felt hope that it will be dispelled.
That sounds like an awful experience. My neighborhood in NJ was without electricity for several days about 15 years ago, and that was bad enough.
I forget exactly when, but some years ago in the aftermath of a storm, winter or tropical I don’t remember, some large neighborhoods in New York City were without power for several weeks. They were poor neighborhoods, of course. Other, more affluent communities in NYC got their power back in a few days to a week.
Try 12 days
No water for 9 of those days with
23” to 28” of snow at once, 6 lg trees down on our one road out and snow too heavy to plow.
And NO phone, NO cell phone service,
Add to that my mother — 130 miles away — had just died a few hours before the storm hit.
…although your analogy of the dark to advent was good and appropriate:-)
off a cul-de-sac
the Ramapo River sings
at its mountain’s feet
Living in New Hampshire with no power in the middle of winter?
Ideas come to mind, having once lived in the Ramapo mountains of northern Jersey:
fire place OR wood stove . . . a must for heat
Candles, lots of candles . . . for ‘hygge’ (coziness)
small generator for making coffee/tea/heating soup/broth
down-stuffed sofas, chairs, outwear, and comforters on beds, and pillows: idea is soft warmth or ‘more cozy’
long winter’s nap . . . . . now’s the time, take advantage 🙂
those books you ordered and put up on a shelf? go get ’em . . . . light a problem? . . . flashlights!
eat a lot of ‘good things’ . . . the stuff that tastes good, cookies, cake, pie, candies, fudge, brownies, pastries, maybe even fruit-cake (I know, I know)
another long winter’s nap
make a great Brunswick stew over the fireplace or on top of the wood stove or if too much work, heat up some Campbell’s . . . . large soup mugs needed here
hot chocolate WITH marshmallows (gotta have ’em or it’s not going to work)
go to bed early and hibernate OR for entertainment, go shovel snow for a few hours and ENJOY doing it!
Or maybe for extra fun, go ice-fishing
nothing appeals? blogging is always a go-to