Advent Light

lights against purple background - photo by Olga Siletskaya/Moment/Getty Images

Advent readings often focus on the theme of light in the midst of darkness, picking up on the words of Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (9:2). The image also hearkens back to God’s bringing light into existence as a fundamental act of creation. God creates light through speaking it into existence. For Christians, Jesus is the light that brings peace, hope, and love into the world.

When I walk my dog in the evenings, after the sun has set, I enjoy looking at the lights on houses that we pass: bright projected lights moving in patterns on the fronts of homes, illuminated statues of Mary and Joseph on a lawn, or subtle icicle lights hanging from awnings. It reminds me that even when it is dark, we can try to seek God in all things, looking for glimmers of light.

At a friend’s funeral recently, I found Christ’s light in the many people who attended his memorial service and in thinking of the acts of love that he and his family shared in his final days. In the midst of reading the news about war, I found Christ’s light in witnessing a conversation in which two people genuinely sought to learn from one another across political differences. I found light in seeing a sweet baby at Mass, playing with a toy hanging from the handle of her baby seat, reminding me that Jesus as a baby must have played in his own way as well. The play of light, whether physical or metaphorical, reminds us that God’s love triumphs, even if at times we must search for it. Even a small amount of light can illuminate a larger dark space.

This Advent, I am also thinking of how the words that we speak can bring light. Of course, we cannot create anything from nothing, as God does, but insofar as we are made in God’s image, we can “create light” through our actions, words, and how we look at one another.

Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins who brought oil in their lamps; some run out while others bring enough with them to last until they meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1–13). Today we use flashlights or phone lights rather than lanterns. We might think about Advent preparation as having enough juice in the battery to keep our lights alive. How can we prepare ourselves to have enough power in our spiritual batteries when we encounter the darkness of poverty, war, loss, or other suffering in Advent?

For me, at least, it means setting aside some quiet time in prayer to connect to Jesus, my Light, and then setting an intention to try to love others in small ways. Most days, small ways may be all that is available to me: care for my husband, students, or people I greet on the dog walk. However, like the many lights on my neighborhood walk, we don’t spread light alone. Ideally, the Christian community joins their lights together to spread God’s love and peace to many places.

This Advent, how can you spread light to others? How do you recharge your interior light so that it might shine?


  1. Marina,
    Your gift of Ignatian insight is inspiring – thank you!
    Two days/nights before the world’s grandest birthday celebration, our table is set, the house and yard decorated, the creche with a candle burning in anticipation of the birth of the Savior.
    A prayer for peace:
    Dear Lord, we are not naive about the timing of these ‘wars” of genocide and its juxtaposition to the birth of the Savior. We support the hope-filled lives of all people of Faith who seek merely to live in relative peace.
    We seek HOPE and LIGHT that these oppressed peoples – innocent women, and especially CHILDREN- who live every day in a world of hate-filled and revenge-seeking adults (mostly men) will see that apartheid and eradication of peoples based on their Faith tradition is FOLLY.
    Help the blind to see – including me.

  2. Thank you, Diane. I have been having that same thought lately. Two worlds, the dark one and the light one. I encounter the light one every time I go out the door and the dark one whenever I watch the news. I have been retreating from the news more and chatting with the bagger at the grocery store more and more.

  3. What I recently realized was that there are “two worlds “. When I read or listen to the news, it can feel alienating with its dark messages. But when I go to the neighbourhood stores or cross people during a walk, I find another world. People are kind, they seem happy to help, happy to chat, happy to just be alive in the ordinary ways of life. This always brings to mind that the vast majority of people want a decent life and they work at getting that every day. Whether it be the garbage collector or the local banker, they seek pretty much all the same things. In reality most people get along with each other. We need to remind ourselves that God works constantly and we can see it in our neighbour’s smile.


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