Fourth Wednesday of Advent: Uncovered

By Alex Banfield-Hicks

Advent Devotional | December 23, 2020

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

—Psalm 43:3 (Read Psalm 43)

It’s hard getting kids out of bed in the dark. At least on a school morning. At least my kids.

We miss the bright summer sunshine that seemed to spark them quickly to life, throwing off covers, smoothly navigating the carpeted obstacle course of strewn toys and skipping downstairs to breakfast.

In contrast, the wintry dawn gloom holds these lifeless forms fast in the shadows, their crumpled faces frowning when names are called, angry eyes squinting against electric light. Sunshine is a warm invitation into joy, but the pre-sunrise brightness of canned ceiling lights rains down like the harsh exposure of judgment; they hide in the holes and caves of duvets. The light comes, but it’s not welcome here!

And I, of course, know exactly how they feel.

My coworker and I were sitting in in our church’s courtyard the other day (a space that has been in great demand since COVID drove us outdoors), and the sympathetic sun shone down through the trees and highlighted Psalm 43:3. “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.”

And we prayed, Yes, Lord, send out your light and your truth like warm sunshine. Like a lovely fall day, let them bring us into your presence, to the place where You dwell.

But I knew, even as we prayed, that I am often reluctant to step forward into the light.

Psalm 43 is paired with its predecessor (Psalm 42) by this shared line, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Sometimes the shadows weigh too heavily upon us. Sometimes the light is too glaring. We want to crawl up and hide.

Surely the sons of Korah, the authors of Psalm 42, had reasons to want to crawl up and avoid the light of reality. The reasons for their “downcast soul” seem to be two-fold—distance from the house of God (42:4) and an oppressive enemy (42:9, 43:1). They were living in a very painful time, when the past was glorious but the future looked bleak.

I, and others I know, have some similar feelings at the end of 2020. We may not be exiled from our homeland, but we may certainly feel disconnected from the house of God and oppressed by forces beyond our control. Maybe we are feeling far from where we’d like to be, maybe far from the person we’d like to be? If so, we’d do well to listen again to the plea of Psalm 43:3.

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” Lord, do whatever it takes to get us home, to You!

In Advent, we look not only to Christ’s birth as the arrival of the Light of the World, but we also anticipate His final return to make all things new—his blessings flowing as far as the curse is found. We look back to the suffering servant, born in a stable, and we look forward to the shining King, returning to bring justice to the earth.

So let us throw off our covers, and let the Light of the World beckon us into a new transparency with Him and with others.

We don’t need to hide our downcast souls in the shadows. Jesus is the Light and Truth whom God has sent to us, sinners made sons and daughters, to lead us home to Him. This dark day will pass and be forgotten, but in the meantime, let us receive the light of God’s presence, whether it be the warm sun or the refiner’s fire.

—Alex Banfield-Hicks is Director of Youth and College Ministries at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, where he works with CCO staff member Leah Hornfeck.