Stir Up Thy Strength, O Lord

Last week, I was travelling on the train to work. It was a bitingly cold morning, with frost sparkling on the ground and breath mingling with the air and a sudden inability to feel my own nose. The streets were in darkness, quiet and empty at that hour even on a weekday morning. I had a warm scarf and hot coffee and, trundling through the Central Belt, the Advent responsory came onto my iPod as I watched a burnt orange sun start to rise over the Scottish hills, and I was filled with a profound sense of peace and joy.

At this time of year, it can feel as if Advent is an inconvenience. It’s not a season that we want to celebrate. From churches who put Santa up in the sanctuary on the first Sunday of December to the “O, come quickly” of Wesley’s beautiful carol to schoolchildren counting down to the last day of term, it can feel like this is a season to simply be got through, to be wished quickly away, so that we can get onto the real business of Christmas.

But it is about so much more than that.

If you give it a chance, there is a beauty in the darkness, in the cold, in the stillness. There is the beauty of a God who we believe in, because, once upon a time, when the Earth was very dark and very cold, God believed in us. It is in God’s believing in us that we find the thing that, now, when the Earth is very dark and very cold, we long for and wait for and hope for. And it is in that hope that the light will shine through the darkness.

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