People Sat in Great Darkness

The Wilderness

My husband Paul and I recently started a 54 day rosary novena in November. Since it’s gotten cold, we’ve been praying it together in the hot tub outside (I know, we are SOOO sacrificial 🙂 ) The area outside our backyard is full of nature, including a “park” that’s just beautiful wilderness. That little bit of wilderness is what attracted us to the neighborhood. It’s not uncommon to hear owls, see rabbits, or spot foxes, among other little creatures.

On one particular night of Advent we were outside praying. We heard the usual noises and thought nothing of them. Then all of a sudden we heard something very different. There was definitely an animal roaming around. “What IS that?” I whispered. We stopped everything to listen, watch, and wait. It was so dark we couldn’t see anything. But we could hear it. It was moving slow. It was big. By this point, adrenaline was rushing through me and I was eager to know what it was. Whatever was out there was definitely not the little animals we were accustomed to. It sounded so. Very. Close. So close I was certain it was in our yard and we should easily see it. The darkness kept us waiting. “What’s out there? Where is it? What are we not seeing?” 

I couldn’t help but think how often in life I’m in the dark, unable to see what’s really going on. God moves and does so much in my life that goes unnoticed because I can’t see things clearly. Even when things happen right in front of me… I can hear and feel it, but I simply cannot see. Some versions of Matthew 4:16 say “the people walked in darkness” others say “the people sat in great darkness.” Before Jesus, all of creation was in darkness waiting for what they had not seen, but only heard told. Whether the people walked, ran, and sat, in the light of day or slept through the night-they were always in darkness. They placed such hope in the stories of the Messiah, all the while patiently watching and waiting.

I didn’t see anything that night. 

Watch and Wait

The next day neighbors said they had a mama deer and a baby in their front lawn. For us, seeing deer reminds us of God’s love. So we were all the more excited and wondered if the deer would come back. 

Every night we went out hopeful to see something in the dark. We heard them again one night, but searching in the darkness we saw nothing.

Last night Paul had already been outside for awhile when I joined. He had been looking for the deer, and shortly after I came outside he said, “well, no deer tonight.” At the same moment, I heard a very faint sound, one we normally wouldn’t think twice about, like the sound of wind rustling through trees. Because we had been waiting, and knowing what we might have the chance to see, we paid attention. Paul turned off the dim lights.

Sure enough, less than 100 yards from us was the mama deer and her baby. There was just enough moonlight shining in the darkness to see.  We watched in amazement as they peacefully grazed until eventually they slowly walked out of sight into the darkness again. 

Still, Small, Silent

We would never have seen them if it weren’t for that small sound in the stillness of the night. I am reminded of the story in 1 Kings 19 where Elijah meets God not in the great wind, not in the earthquake or fire, but in the silence. We didn’t see the deer when they made the loud noises, but in silence. I expected to see something that first night, but needed to wait patiently. Likewise, the people of Israel had to wait for Jesus; waiting and waiting not knowing when Jesus would come and appear.

It’s just like Jesus to come on a regular night when no one expected. I don’t know about you, but He is always showing up when I’m not expecting him. He became the light in the darkness for you and for me. Even when we can’t see him, Jesus is “the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Once he came, everything changed forever. 

How have you been waiting, watching, and searching this Advent?

When have you found Jesus in the silence or during the ordinary/mundane things?

When in your life did you know God was present but just couldn’t see or understand what was happening at the time? When in your life did you know God was present but just couldn’t see or understand what was happening at the time?

Copyright 2020 Katie Sample

Katie Sample moved to the Des Moines area from South Dakota. She is a wife and mother to a very passionate and energetic son. Katie yearns to dive deeper into the mysteries of God and all the ways he reveals his love to us. She also loves to listen and walk with people on their journey. It is not unusual to find her reading, listening to music, running, and drinking wine. The Samples are parishioners at St. Luke's in Ankeny, IA

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