The Journey through Advent to Christmas
It’s getting to be that time of year when the days get shorter and it’s dark more hours than it is light. For some people, this time of year can trigger depression. In fact, according to Norman Rosenthal, MD, 6% of the US population, primarily in northern climates, is affected by S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in its most marked form. Another 14 % of the adult US population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal mood changes, known as winter blues.1
This time of year can be overwhelming for pastors. There is a lot to do to get ready for Christmas. You are preparing for worship services, you need to tend to your own family and you are trying to end the year well financially. It is easy for pastors to begin to slide into a dark time in their own souls.
So, at this darkest time of the year, it’s good to remember and meditate on the fact that God invaded our darkness when the Light of the World became flesh and blood. Take the season of Advent seriously this year. It is a time to prepare our hearts to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, a time to look through the darkness and gaze at the light.
Scriptures are full of the theme of light. The beginning of the Bible announces God’s creation of physical light. The end of the Bible declares a new heaven and new earth where the Lord is the light and there is no darkness anymore. (Rev. 22:5)
The theme of light occurs throughout the Nativity story. After John the Baptist is born, Zechariah sings about the light God will shed on His people through the Messiah (Lk 1:78-79). Simeon sings of the light of revelation for the Gentiles (Lk 2:29-32). Angels appear to shepherds out in the dark of night bathing them in glorious light (Lk 2:9). And God leads mysterious Magi from a distant land by the light of the star to find His Son (Matt 2:9).
So I encourage you during this dark time of the year to gaze into the glorious light of Jesus Christ. Although Christmas is a joyous time it can also have its shadows. Those shadows might include sickness, financial problems, sadness, anxiety and doubt. King David once said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” God wants to shed light into your life and rescue you from darkness and shadows.
One treatment for S.A.D. is called light therapy. According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, “Although the amount of time needed varies, most people need between 30 and 90 minutes (10,000 lux) of light therapy per day.”2
I believe that is true for us spiritually as well. We need exposure to the light of Christ daily.
So here are some practical ways to expose yourself to the Light of the World each day.
- Read one Bible verse each day about light. There are over 200 of them!
- Do a Greek and/or Hebrew word study on light.
- Research how Christians have tried to express light in art through the ages.
- End each day by praying an ancient prayer called the Phos Hilaron. The Phos Hilaron was written in the late 3rd or early 4th century AD. (See below)
- Get an Advent wreath, and light the appropriate candles each night during the four weeks of Advent.
- Start each day by watching the sun come up and thinking about how the light of Christ wants to break into your day that day.
- If you find yourself in a dark time and need a safe place to talk about it, please contact us here at PastorServe.
O Gracious Light Phos Hilaron
O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.
Jay Fowler, Executive Director of the Midwest Region of PastorServe
Since joining the PastorServe staff in September of 2014, Jay has connected with hundreds of pastors in Kansas City and beyond. He grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science and Secondary Education in Mathematics. He received his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and has been in full time ministry for 34 years. He is an ordained Anglican priest in the Anglican Church of North America. He has been married to his wife Janine for 30 years and has a son and two daughters.
1 Rosenthal NE. Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2006.