Metaphor was my guide as I pondered today’s assigned word.
First, my thoughts strayed to one of the Bible verses I memorized as a girl in Sunday school. It was the very early 1960s in a very Protestant church, so we used the King James version: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11). That trope of hiding reflects significantly on the act of memorizing itself—what we used to call “learning by heart.” Of course, in addition to committing the scriptures to memory, this verse—and those that surround it—suggests that we must internalize the word of God to assist us in living according to his precepts. Some modern translations (notably, the NIV) preserve the metaphor of “hiding,” but even those that use other verbs (“treasure,” “lay up,” “store,” “bank”) maintain a focus on using the scriptures as guides against behaving badly.
As I attempt to focus my thoughts, a slight discomfort at this self-centered motivation leads me to another biblical metaphor about hiding that I also learned in Sunday school—the warning against hiding our lamp under a bushel. Indeed, it is to these words that I choose to turn today’s meditations, spoken to us via the Sermon on the Mount:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16, RSV).
And where do we find that light?
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, RSV).
The season of Advent allows us to enact annually our pilgrimage from dark to light. And because sometimes we have difficulty keeping on the path, sometimes we fall, and sometimes we lose our way entirely, we turn to the promise of Advent—that Jesus, the light of the world, will guide us to a new life of healing and wholeness.
Accepting that promise can be difficult as we ponder our own imperfections. However, it is in our brokenness that we often find our surest path to God. And because I believe that we can find life lessons all around us, I will close with the chorus from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,” a song that has often spoken hope to my own brokenness:
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything—
That’s how the light gets in.
But sometimes that’s how the light gets out as well. My prayer for this second day of Advent—rather, for every day of Advent and of our lives—is that we may rehabilitate those words hidden in our hearts, take them out of mothballs, and turn ourselves into light-bearers.