Far to the right on the inky horizon, a soft billowing shadow floated to the heavens. Soft grey clouds puffed quietly, silently, gently, towards the just-visible stars. Little sparkles in the clear night sky disappeared, one by one, hiding behind the ever-expanding vaporous curls. And a small orange glow warmed a distant spot, far to the right of that dark silent night.

The distance of the terrible little blaze might have allowed us to sleep. Those of us who weren’t watching, that is. Up and down my sleepy street, rows of houses and trees and cars napped, unaware. Their windows remained dark, their hearts and minds contented by dreams. Not a breath of midnight expectation, not even a hushed whisper for something more to come. A great and terrible day was upon us, but so many were caught up in slumber.

But a few of us knew what was coming. We stood on the front porch, shivering in the icy dry wind in the dead of night. Some for a minute, some for more. But we watched. We waited. Together we fought to keep our eyes on that black landscape, lit up by a far-away flame. We would watch and wait until the fiery light came too close to ignore.

But it was such a long night. I was so very tired. Just a little sleep, only a little slumber, that couldn’t possibly be that bad? Maybe I would wake up and everything would be ok. Maybe it wasn’t as serious as I imagined it to be. Maybe the tiny fire would never come close to me, and I could blissfully forget the watching. The waiting.

This season right before Christmas, our Advent prayers keep us awake. We find ourselves standing on the porches of our own little house, watching, waiting. For we heard that deep in the darkness, a light was born. A Light of all Lights, who shines in the night. A light which no darkness can overcome. We heard that a baby, born of Mary is the bright Son of God. But tonight, He is hidden in humility, shadowed in flesh, laying in a manger, and dying on a cross.

A Light of All Lights

His faraway story might lull us to sleep. It is such a long night and the impact seems lifetimes away. I am so very tired and I’m not really that bad off. Maybe I would wake up and everything will be ok. Maybe my problems are not as serious as I imagine them to be. Maybe I don’t deserve the judgment of an enemy of God, and therefore I don’t really need any light other than my own. Maybe I am not in imminent danger, and I can forget the watching. The waiting.

Our exhausted and skeptical hearts believe the burning fire will stay far away. But every once in a while, we are reminded of its deadly heat. Our flesh stings when the flames get too close, threatening to destroy us and everything we hold dear. The Almighty God rains down His embers of commands, standards, and lawfulness. Every spotlight of righteous fire illuminates our wrongs, our doubts, our selfish intentions, our evil ways. Tongues of judgment fire lash out and scorch every last good thing we think we have left. Everything we love will burn to the ground, so that we might trust only in Him. And the big fire is coming.

Christ rose from the grave so that the eternal Light of Christ would be your forever identity.

The horizon was no longer calm and dark, but a blazing fire consumed the night. Deep black smoke shrouded the mountains, deafening crackles from the flames filled our streets. Alarms pierced the darkness and sirens screamed as the fire raged just outside the comfortable suburban bedrooms. Orange reflections lit up the dark soundless windows, but they only slept on, unaware.

And our Advent prayers keep us awake. Even though we stand on the porches of our own little houses, with nothing to do as everything melts around us, we still watch, we still wait. For we trust that brighter than the flames of judgment, a greater Light has come. A Light of all Lights, Who shines in the night. A light which no darkness has overcome, A Light that no fire will consume. We trust that the Son of God will come again in glory. He comes—and we are watching.

So, what must you do to keep watch? How will you prepare for the great and terrible fire that ultimately consumes all things? The Light Who is Jesus has already finished even this for you. He was made flesh, He suffered and died in your place, and He rose from the grave so that the eternal Light of Christ would be your forever identity. He wrestled you awake, personally, in your baptism, opening your eyes to this new life in Him. He shakes you awake every time His body and blood are placed on your tongue—provoking you with repentant depravity, focusing you again on Christ’s gift of unending forgiveness. He proclaims you awake—calls you by His creative Word, restoring you to be the awakened people of God. And so tonight, even in the middle of torment and sadness, even through a scary night threatened by fire, you have no greater hope and comfort than to just watch, and just wait. Come Lord Jesus.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”Matt 24:35