I’ve had two songs chasing each other around in my head today. One is Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, with its haunting but hopeful refrain:
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…
The other is Hank Williams, Sr.’s I Saw the Light:
I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
I’ve always been attracted to songs like these, and to singers like these who can speak credibly about the light because they’ve experienced real darkness. Simply put, they get it, and you can tell that songs like these are more than just tracks on an album for them; they are in a way a personal testimony. Cohen and Hank have that kind of credibility; so do Johnny Cash and Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, two of my other personal favorites. Some people imagine that heaven will be a lot of harp music and alleluia choruses; but my hunch is that the soundtrack in heaven contains more than a few of these songs, too. These songs remind me of that wonderful word of hope from Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Even though that Isaiah passage is part of the appointed reading for Christmas Eve, I actually find myself reflecting on it a lot during the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, a time of expectant waiting, and the fulfillment of this promise from Isaiah is, after all, what we’re preparing for and waiting for. We wait for the great revealing light of Christ. We wait for the light that will shine in the darkness and which the darkness will not overcome. We long for light in the midst of our own deep darknesses: fear, sin, disease, addiction and affliction of every kind. We look for the light that will reveal us, in all of our cracked-ness and broken-ness, to be good enough.
I find myself, during this season of Advent, remembering and giving thanks for the people who have helped me see the light in the dark times in my life. I give thanks for the folks who have pointed me to that light. I give thanks for the people who have let that light shine through their own cracks onto me. I give thanks for the people who’ve sat with me in the dark and held my hand, encouraging me to hold on until the light dawns.
One of the greatest misconceptions of the life of faith is that it is our good example, our strengths and our commitment and our triumphs that bear witness most faithfully and most powerfully to the working of God in our lives. In my experience, it is just the opposite. It is when we let our cracks show that the light shines through them. It is when we have truly experienced darkness that we can best point towards the light.
So who are those light-bearers in your life? Who has helped you see the light in your times of darkness? Who has let the light of Christ shine on you through their cracks? More importantly, whose darkness can you bear the light into? Which of your cracks can let light shine on someone near you this Advent?