When the Lighting Changes: An Advent Devotion

Lighting makes a difference, as anyone who has braved trying on clothes under fluorescent fitting room lights can tell you. An interrogation light shining upon one’s face sets an incredibly different stage than does the gentle flicker of candle light. Wise producers and authors match mood and lighting.

This morning, my heart was captured by what I imagine must have been a drastic light and scene change in the life of Mary.

One moment she was in the presence of the archangel, Gabriel. Shimmering, shining, emmanating light. Floodlights to match a sudden breakthrough annoucement of an impossible and unexpected birth. Bells and whistles, commanding angelic proclamation and promises. Mary was confused, to be sure, but she could not help but see that God was up to something. She must have been caught up in the moment, talking there face to face with angel of light. With the strength and sure words of an archangel to shore up her wavering courage, Mary bravely submits to this divine interruption and invitation.

Luke’s account of this momentous occasion ends with the following verses.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing is impossible with God. 

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 

And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:35 & 37-38. 

End stage lights. Depart emmanating presence of angelic messenger. Cue the silence to fill the bold declaration of one sent from the throne of God Himself.

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Talk about a light change. While I have never been in the presence of an angel, I have been on a soccer field when the blinding, field-illuminating floodlights are suddenly turned off. An angel leaving a room, I imagine, leaves a much more drastic impression than that.

I wonder what it was like when the angel departed, leaving Mary alone with her thoughts. Was she like little children who tend to be brave in the clarity and comfort of strong lighting but fall apart when the lights go dim and the darkness creeps in as a blanket?

As I imagined the lighting and scene change from such a moment of divine clarity to the quiet of entering back into real life with a completely altered life plan, I found myself writing this poem.

Upon the Angel’s Departure

All was well and good
With Gabriel at hand;
His presence silenced
All she didn’t understand. 

His emmanating glow
Lit a spark of confidence;
His powerful promises
Covered the dissonance. 

The angel departed,
Leaving her alone.
The room grew dark,
The air colder than stone. 

Doubts began to scream,
“You’re a fool to enlist.
Who are you to enter
An errand such as this?”

Then a still, soft voice
Whispered into the fear,
“Oh, sweet favored one,
I’ll be so very near.”

“Each task entrusted to you,
My power will fulfill.
I will come upon you,
Willing in you my will.”

Doubts didn’t disappear,
they stayed her life through.
But His truth was planted,
“God will strengthen you.”

When confidence departs,
As swift as Gabriel left,
Hear the whisper of God,
“Hide here in my cleft.”

Favored does not mean
The absence of all fear.
Favored simply means
By grace, He is near. 

When the lighting changes drastically in our lives, may we know the deeply planted truth that God remains with us. In flickering candle light, in floodlights and even in moments of deep and devastating darkness and doubt, the promise of Christmas remains: Emmanuel, God with us.

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