I decided to fast from all media this past weekend. It was a good choice. My spirit needed it. But when I listened to NPR’s “Up First” on Monday morning, I was overwhelmed all over again with the heavy weight of the world falling down all around me.
The simple truth is, just like the reduction in light we receive each day from the sun as we move closer to the WInter Solstice, it feels like we are living in a world with ever-increasing darkness. Especially as it relates to this global pandemic.
There are glimmers of hope, of course, like the news of the possibility of a vaccine on the horizon. However, the kind of destruction between now and then sounds akin to what happened between D-Day and the end of World War II in Europe.
It was soul-crushing to hear the projections of death, the continued opposition to something as benign and helpful as wearing a mask to prevent spread, the prospects of overwhelmed hospitals and medical personnel on the brink and the lack of national coordination in addressing it, making the epidemic harder to control.
The reality that we will need to isolate even more as we enter this second wave is hard enough, but made doubly so by the fact that the holiday season is upon us and so the isolation will be magnified. At a time when we are normally surrounded by loved ones, we will feel even more alone.
I write this not to depress you. I am simply saying what we all know to be true.
So, knowing this grim reality that is laid out before us in the coming months, the question becomes how then shall we respond? Or, as Luther might put it, “What does this mean for us?”
As I was praying about how to write about what I suspect many of us are feeling, I kept coming back to the words of the final song in the musical “Les Miserables,” based on the book of the same title by Victor Hugo.
I had the great good fortune to fulfill a bucket list dream and be in the ensemble when my community theater staged “Les Mis” several years ago, with both of my sons. (Duncan portrayed Marius. I will happily share videos).
The show is full of sadness and tragedy, but in the final scene, everyone gathers on stage, including those who had died in many and various devastatingly awful way. And the show is ended with a song of hope that includes the words penned by Hugo, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
Those words remind me of what the Psalmist wrote: “Though weeping may last for the night, joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
These words remind us that even though it is dark and overwhelming, we live as people of hope, who know that we serve a God of healing and light, who will not let the darkness of the world overcome us.
Sometimes, when it feels so overwhelming that we catch our breath just thinking about it, we need to step back and do a breath prayer. We need to remind ourselves of our God who is not only present with us in the deep, dark hour of the soul we are experiencing collectively, but that our God is the one who created the sunrise and promises us, with each recreation of a new day, of the promise of the resurrection. When the sun rises, we can be reminded that Good Friday turned to Easter when the Son rose.
So what then shall we do in these days when the shadows lengthen and the night seems ever longer? I encourage you to begin each day with a prayer as you see the rising sun. A prayer of thanks for this reminder that the dark of night does not get the last word with the beauty of the sun breaking through at the dawn of a new day.
This practice doesn’t change our reality, but it centers it in what it means to live as people of faith, people who have chosen to live lives that reflect the Light of the World. It is a deliberate and intentional act to say “NO” to the powers and forces of evil that tell us that this is all there is, and YES to a God who assures us that we will never be abandoned or left adrift in this world, even if we are socially isolated. A promise to “be with us always” even in the midst of a second wave and a global pandemic.
By beginning each day, as we see the light, with a prayer of thanksgiving for the giver of all light who is the author of all of our days and sunrises we have seen, we push back the clouds that block the sun. We claim the promise that Christ gave us by assuring us that death and the grave do not triumph, no matter how bad it seems. Light breaks through. Even the darkest night will end, and the Son has risen.
LUTHER’S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.