A Light to My Path

Experiencing an Advent in the Dark

I have a tradition on the morning of my birthday: I find a way to see the sunrise so I can welcome the dawn of another year of my life. I love to see the sunrise, the sunset, a full moon—anything easily visible in the sky. I have been visually impaired since birth, and I am simply grateful that God has given me the ability to see light and color.

I’ve been chasing the sunrise since my twenty-third birthday, but on the morning of my thirty-fourth birthday, I found myself waking up in a hospital room. I was not able to see anything. My right eye was already completely blind, and my left eye was patched after emergency retina surgery. Although the doctors were hopeful that I would regain my sight, there were no guarantees.

On the morning of my thirty-fourth birthday, I was experiencing physical darkness, and my heart longed to seek out that sunrise. In the weeks and months that followed, I gradually journeyed toward healing, and as December drew near I eagerly made plans to decorate the Christmas tree and set out the festive décor. I have always gravitated toward Christmas decorations, probably because of the beauty of the lights. Advent of 2017 became a meaningful time of reflection for me as I considered my physical eyesight and the condition of my heart.

As I basked in the lights from the tree and witnessed the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath at our worship services, I found myself contemplating the theme of each week of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. The Israelites longed for the coming of the Messiah, and they had hope that he would deliver them from the Romans. I had hope that God would restore my vision. The arrival of the Savior brought peace, and this was reflected in my life as I quietly considered the uncertainty before me. Even though I was anxious about the challenges in front of me, I knew that God had always been faithful, and that gave me peace.

As Christmas drew closer, I was able to find joy in the celebration of the season. I needed more assistance to complete simple tasks, but at the same time I was slowly working toward independence. The twinkling Christmas lights and beautiful music of the season brightened my perspective, and I can honestly say that I experienced joy. I felt the love of my family, friends, and coworkers, and many people gave of their time and talents to help me navigate those first few months of recovery. I felt God’s love and care for me as he equipped his people to provide for my needs.

I cried as I packed away the Christmas decorations at the end of the season. I had considered leaving the house decorated indefinitely because the Christmas lights carried a far deeper meaning for me that year. But I also knew I didn’t need the Christmas lights in place to be reminded of God’s presence. More than once I was reminded of John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

John 8:12

I was navigating through a time of physical darkness. I needed the help of my mobility cane, and my depth perception was significantly altered. It was easy for me to falter and stumble without the help of a friend or assistive technology. My vision was improving, but my recovery was tedious and challenging. Sometimes my faith faltered, and I found myself clinging to the Lord in the face of my fear. I was aware that God had a plan for my future. God was guiding me forward even though I was not able to see the path in front of me. As I cautiously navigated through my daily routine and found a new normal with my limited vision, God never left my side. In the times when darkness tried to keep me from moving forward, God knew the way; though darkness was all around me, God was walking in the light because he was the Light himself—the Light of the World.

I love the verse from John 8 because it reminds me that if I follow Jesus, I will never walk in darkness because I will have “the light of life.” During that season of my life, God was leading the way through the shadows. I simply needed to grasp God’s hand so he could lead me forward into the life he had promised me.

Father God, when the path in front of me is obscured by shadows and the darkness closes in, remind me you are the Light of the World. Draw me toward you with your outstretched hand. Guide me through each challenge, and light my way along the path you have planned for me. I trust you, Light of the World. In your name, amen.

Cassie Lokker is the worship and music director at First Reformed Church in Baldwin, Wisconsin. In 2018 she released her album The Dawn, a collection of music that testifies to God’s faithfulness amid fear, struggle, and suffering.

Reformed Worship 149 © September 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.