Leading to the Light

"It is always darkest before the dawn" if we are looking for the Light (like watchmen wait for the morning ~ Psalm 130).

The Spoken Version

Listen to an audio version of this reflection.

The Scripture

Inspired by Psalm 25
interpreted by Deborah

Here I am, Lord: offering my life, my soul, to Your care.

Don’t let me down; don’t let the bad guys win. Don’t let any of Your people despair; instead, let the vicious and villainous meet their own ends: misery and shame, distress and destruction; turn their every wickedness against them.

Show me Your way, O Lord; lead me on the high road to wisdom and understanding, for You are the God of my salvation. Open my ears to Your call.

Remember the good old days, Lord, when Your peace, like a river, flowed through my soul; when my confidence was solid and my sins and cynicism had no power over me? Turn back the clock, Merciful God, and restore my faith and my hope; do this, Lord, in keeping with the great tradition of Your compassion and love for Your people.

God is gentle and good, that is why He teaches the misguided and the miserable in the Way of abundant life. Those willing to be taught He guides patiently along the paths of mercy and holy wisdom. This is the Way of the Lord; the Way we are to follow and the peace we are to know as His people.

Merciful Lord, restore my heart to the tenderness I once knew: cleansed from the stains and smears of fear and hatred, guilt and greed; free my soul from suspicion and cynicism, ignorance and idolatry. Set my feet again on the Path You have set forth: the way of compassion, kindness, and generosity — The Way of life.

I ask this, O God, in Your Name. Do it for Your sake, not mine; You owe me nothing. I sure haven’t earned any special consideration, I’ve slid and skidded and skated far away from Your path, and I’m headed downhill — fast.

Lift me out of my distress, O Lord! I am besieged by troubles, assailed by countless enemies, isolated and alone. There is no health in me: my heart hurts, my soul aches, my head filled with thoughts chaotic and terrible. My strength ebbs away; each day an ordeal, a slog through the mire.

Show mercy, O God! I’m up to my neck in misery, helpless; and my enemies are squirming with delight, for they hate me with a fierce and deadly hatred.

Take charge of my soul, and rescue me; for now I see all too clearly what a mess my life has become. Lead me on the high road to wisdom and understanding, for You are the God of my salvation.

Here I am, Lord: offering my life, my soul, to Your care.

Redeem Your people, Merciful God, out of our troubles!

Photo of a flower

Advent One by Deborah Beach Giordano

A Surprising Beginning

Here I am, Lord: offering my life, my soul, to Your care.

Here we are — at the beginning of Advent; a season that, for me, invariably comes as a surprise — after weeks of steadfastly resisting and ignoring commercials and catalogs and other “holiday” enticements. It seems to arrive suddenly: a guest appearing at the door early, unexpectedly. And the rush is on.

Help signNearly as surprising as the arrival of Advent is the appearance of the 25th Psalm in the lectionary. It isn’t festive in the least, there’s no sense of joyful anticipation, no prediction of hope to be fulfilled; instead, it is a frantic plea for Help. The psalmist bares his soul to God, truthful in every respect: a sorrowful, no-holds barred confession; a description of misery and loneliness. It is a cry of desperation.

Suddenly, it seems, our psalmist has been confronted with the appearance of a most unexpected guest — arriving in response to the choices he has made. Things had probably been piling up for a time: some dirty laundry here, a stack of broken promises there, a heap of anger and resentment shoved in a corner out of sight, a gaggle of good intentions gathering dust under the sofa…. then the Guest arrived, and he was brought face to face with the consequences of his actions — with those things he had done and those he had left undone, we might say.

An Unexpected Guest

The word “guest” is an interesting one: from the Anglo-Saxon gāst, which means “guest” or “stranger,” it is derived ultimately from the Sanskrit ghostis, which is also the antecedent of the Latin hostis, meaning “stranger” or “enemy.” ( We find it in words like hospitality, host, hospital, hostile, and hostage.) Curiously, too, this is the source of the term “Holy Ghost,” the Anglo-Saxon rendering of the Latin Spiritus Sanctus.

Doubtful Guest GoreyIt appears that the psalmist has been visited by the Holy Guest in its guise as an enemy: a seemingly-alien Spirit that calls us to account, an Accuser who’s got the goods on us, knowing our every fault and failing, challenging our excuses denials, and refusing to be ignored. It may take the form of our conscience, or in events taking place in our lives, or in a “dark night of the soul” when regrets and dread loom up before us like Scrooge’s Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come.

The Important Question

It is important to remember that this Guest is Holy. It does not seek to do harm, but to bless and to heal. It is insistent, demanding, even disturbing because what happens to you matters Ultimately. This is the Spirit which inquires — and not unkindly — “Is it well with your soul?” It is the Voice of the Sacred, asking, gently, “Where do you hurt?” and guiding us in the path of healing and wholeness.

alarm clockOur psalmist’s guest was a wake-up service; jangling his nerves and shaking him out of his complacency. He could no longer pretend that his way — his choices, his actions, his words, his pleasure, his comfort — lead to happiness or health or peace of mind. The result of what he had done and left undone — the harm and hurt and misery — stood revealed before him, blocking the path to the full and peaceful life he yearned for.

Faced with this terrible knowledge, the psalmist seeks refuge in God, pleading for mercy, for redemption, for a fresh start. It is clear that there is just no other Way to live, but in following the Way of the Lord.

A Miracle

This psalm is the story of that experience: the story of a broken soul finding its way back to God, It isn’t a dramatic or awe-inspiring tale; there is no Lazarus-pulled-from-the-grave — and yet it is a miracle, a wondrous event: the restoration of a life from the depths of despair.

dead end street signOur psalmist gets it: he has seen the Light of heaven, seen how very different it is from the glitter of gold, the glint of weapons and armor, the shimmer of social approval; these are transient — not what it is lasting. The pursuit of wealth, power, popularity, comfort, security, temporal beauty… these are paths that lead nowhere; dead ends, downward spirals that sap the hearts and minds and souls and strength from their worshippers. It is only the Way of the Lord that gives life — all others take it from us.

A New Day

It is a new day for the psalmist — and for us; we know the Way we are to follow, we know what heals and blesses, what sustains and enriches our lives here, and leads to radiant lives hereafter. With wisdom, faith, and honesty, we stand before God listening. Having admitted our wrong turns and our refusals to live as we ought, our seeking after shortcuts and smooth paths, we are ready to hear the Call of the Sacred.

Knowing what we have done and what we have left undone, we should be prepared for a royal scolding — or worse. Instead, the universe is filled with Holy Light: the dawn of a new beginning, the repetition of that Glorious Assurance spoken from On High over and over again, the Beloved’s mercy and compassion ever-renewed.

lighted menorah

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion. He will not always accuse us, nor harbor His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving devotion for those who honor Him.
    ~ Psalm 108:8-11

Our Jewish cousins are celebrating Hanukkah, commemorating the occasion when, during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, there was only enough oil for the lamps for a single day, yet the lamps remained lighted for eight days. God does not always thunder, but reveals Godself subtly, gently, as the Light that Does Not Fail.

Let There Be Light

And as for us, we, too, have a Light infused celebration.

By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light
to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
   ~ the Song of Zachariah, Luke 1:78-79

Advent is the beginning of the Christian year. It is a time for spiritual renewal, refreshment, and restoration; a time when we remember in gratitude and awe the sweet Holy Guest who came down to us in Bethlehem. May His tender love heal us, bless us, and His Light flow forth from us into the whole world.

Christ’s grace and peace be with you,


Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Is it well with your soul?