While on a vacation in Hawaii some years ago, we rose early one morning to watch the sun come up over the ocean. For what seemed the longest time, we could see light approaching on the horizon even though the sun itself had not actually appeared.
Darkness does not immediately give way to light, just as night does not immediately give way to day. The movement from one way of being to its opposite happens slowly. The ability to endure the slowness of that transition is helped when we catch first glimpses of what is coming—yet at the same time our longing for what is coming grows sharper instead of lessening. With each sign of light, the remaining darkness seems more unbearable, the desire for the fullness of light to be present also more unbearable.
Advent places us on this edge of intense longing. We still stand in the darkness of waiting for the coming birth, all the while being given more and more signs of that birth happening. The last week of Advent is filled with readings and songs that rejoice and yearn for the cause of our rejoicing, all at the same time. The tension deepens.
And then, just when it seems we can endure the tension no longer, the sun emerges over the ocean, dark yields to light, and the angels begin singing of the stable birth. Finally, the wait is over.