5th December 2022

Clock at 7pm

Clock at 7pm

A Sermon preached by The Right Revd Stephen Lake, Bishop of Salisbury.

From Darkness to Light: The Advent Procession.


Clock at 7pm

In a moment, we shall be plunged into total darkness. There is something unsettling about total darkness, even when in a cathedral of goodness. Total darkness. Anything could go wrong.

Advent is about darkness, the darkness of the longer nights and the reflections on the year past, before the days lengthen again. And this has been a long year. A dark year even. When we were in the days of lockdown and endless restrictions, we wondered what the new normal would be. It became one of the pandemic phrases, looking towards to daybreak of a new normal.

Many hoped for a brighter day, a new normal of hope and light. A new time of community cohesion and personal and corporate integrity, a new time of generosity and standing on our doorsteps to talk and welcome in rather than clap from a safe distance. Some of us prayed for a response to faith and church-going, as we were faced with our social mortality for the first time in a generation. The new normal could be better broader, inclusive and free.

But the new normal we have found within ourselves is dark. War in Europe, cost of living through the roof, if you are lucky enough to have a roof that is, industrial action, political chaos and a new society of self. The new normal is darker than we prayed for in our pandemic prayers.

And then just one light breaks the darkness. One light comes to the world. One light becomes another, and another, and another, and with the echo of singing from afar, the light gradually takes over and banishes the darkness.

This great liturgy, like no other service in our land, tells of the new normal. God sends his Son Jesus Christ, as an infant born in darkness, to be the new normal. The Word will become flesh and live among us. And in the darkness of the tomb at Easter, a new dawn rises as we are promised resurrection on the brightest day to come. This is the new normal. Jesus Christ is the new normal. Our sin which creates the darkness is judged and forgiven, if we just share the light.

In a moment, we shall be plunged into total darkness, but it is not the new normal we proclaim. At the end of this worship, you will see the new normal.

Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

Let us pray.

Faithful God,

your world is full of fear.

Hunger, cold, and loneliness are all around.

Your children are hurting.

Into our darkness comes the child of Bethlehem –

Jesus, the light who cannot be overcome.

He is with us always.

He speaks words of hope and words of truth.

May his Spirit fill our hearts this Advent

and awaken us to your purposes:

making us generous in giving,

active in serving,

and alert to your reign of justice, mercy, and peace,

which he calls us to bring to birth – here, and now.