Advent Readings and Carols December 8, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell


Advent Readings & Carols Reflection


Isaiah 52:7-10 How beautiful are the feet;

Isaiah 40:1-8 Comfort, O comfort my people;

Jeremiah 31:31-34 A new covenant written on their hearts;

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 The people who walked in darkness;

Luke 1:26-38 The angel Gabriel;

Luke 1:39-45 Mary and Elizabeth;

Luke 1:46-55 Magnifcat


Creator of the Stars of Night; O Day of Peace;

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Mary, Woman of Promise


Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

The Rev. Janet Campbell

December 8, 2019

5:00 p.m.



“The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of darkness –

on them light has shined.”


Nearly 20 years ago,

in the bleak mid-winter,


I came for the first time

to the Pacific Northwest

from Chicago

to interview for a position

with the Dean of St. Mark’s Cathedral

in Seattle.



I remember vividly,

as if it were yesterday,

waking up

in my hotel room

the morning after my arrival.


Outside the windows

all was impenetrable darkness.


The clock said 6:30.



was it morning

or was it evening?


I was suddenly completely disoriented.


Had I slept through the whole day?


Had I missed my interview?


What a great impression

I would make

when I called to explain:



I couldn’t tell if it was

day or night”?



(Back then of course,

there was no smartphone to grab

and say,

“Siri . . .  or Bixby  . . .

or whatever the assistant’s name is . . .


is it morning or evening?”


I stared bleakly out the window,

a confused stranger

in a strange and dark land,

panic welling up . . .


Had I blown my chance

at a job I really wanted,

and what’s more,

really needed?



But at last,

the faintest sliver of light appeared

on the horizon,

gradually widening, growing, brightening . . .


morning had broken.


And just as suddenly

as it had been turned upside down,

the world turned right-side up.



I had some coffee,

got dressed,

ate breakfast,

went to my interview,

got the job,


and within two months,

moved here

to the land of the deepest, longest

winter darkness

I have ever known . . .


a darkness I have

gradually learned to live with,

and even to like living in.


Advent’s gift of darkness:

a time for





and the possibilities

that arise out of darkness.


– – – – –


The creator of the stars of night,

in the emptiness, the darkness of nothingness,

where every possibility existed,

imagined this possibility:

this world of light and life,

and spoke it into being.


– – – – –

In the darkness of the fertile earth

a seed sprouted, and grew,

and became a tree . . .

one of many in a beautiful garden

where the first woman and man

lived . . .


one of many trees,

but a special one,

the only one not given

to the woman and man for food.


But they took its fruit anyway,

and violated their friendship

with God . . .


and different possibilities

arose out of darkness:






war . . .

evil . . .




– – – – –
Across the ages,

in times of darkness and despair,

when God’s children

were at their worst,

the prophets

of the Creator of the Stars of night

proclaimed God’s promise

of faithfulness, love, mercy, justice . . .


– – – –


and in the fullness of a very dark time,

in the darkness of Mary’s womb,

the immensity of God came to dwell,


the infinitesimally small seed

of a developing human being,


and the greatest,

most glorious of all possibilities

was born.



the son of the Creator of the stars of night,

God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, justice

in the flesh:



“What has come into being in him

was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

the darkness did not [and cannot] overcome it.”

(John 1:3c-5)


In the darkness

of this particular Pacific Northwest winter,


in the darkness of

this particularly troubled time

in our beloved nation,


in the darkness of

worldwide political turmoil,

and the desecration of God’s creation,


in the secret darkness of our own hearts

where life’s wounds and scars dwell:

ours and the wounds and scars of others,


in the darkness

of a dreary and gray afternoon,


In all that darkness,

we have come

to this place of light

where God’s promise,

God’s glorious possibility,

is proclaimed and lived



Sunday by Sunday

by Sunday by Sunday . . .



Not a promise

that there will be no darkness,

but that, in the darkness,

there will be light

and the light will be our life.


Not a promise

that there will be no emptiness,


but that, in the emptiness,

will be infinite possibility,

because it is full of God.



Darkness, emptiness,

can be disorienting, confusing,



kind of darkness and emptiness)


But there is the soft, velvety darkness,

of the night

that births the new day,

the soft, velvety darkness

of the good earth

that births the new growth of spring,

the soft, velvety darkness

of a mother’s womb

gestating the infinite possibilities of a child,


the creating darkness of God’s imagination . . .

which is only dark

because it is Mystery to us.



Out of the fertile,

life-nurturing darkness,

new life springs . . .


In the emptiness,

there is room

for God to be born.



That is the message

of all we have said and sung

here tonight.


It is for us to share.


Look down at your feet.


There they are.

Your feet.


Left foot. Right foot.


The feet that have carried you

through life.


The feet that brought you here.



No matter how old,

how worn,

how calloused,

how painful,

how tired,


They are beautiful, your feet –


the beautiful feet

of messengers of peace,

bringers of good news,

announcers of God’s salvation.


Walk on your beautiful feet

out of this place

and into the night,

and tell with your lips

and show with your lives

what you have seen and heard . . .


“all the ends of the earth will see

the salvation of our God.”

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