The Campus Chapel is quiet as I slip through the ruddy front door and cross the tiny foyer. I pause to blow my icy nub of a nose; the half-hour walk through the dusky predawn did my delicate sinuses no favors. Murmurs drift down the short flight of stairs between me and the softly glowing sanctuary. I pull off my gloves and coax my cold-clumsy fingers to pick up a printed program as I step into the light.

It’s 7:30 on Thursday morning, the day after the final day of classes at the University of Michigan—unofficially known as “Campus-Wide Sleep-Until-Noon Day.” Even with an invigorating walk under my belt, I’m beginning to regret foregoing this pre-exam holiday. But it’ll be a busy day, and I’m glad for the head start. Today marks the second installment in a three-week Advent series my pastors cheekily call “Wine before Breakfast.” The services are brief, just long enough for Scripture readings, reflection, a few songs, and communion (thus the “Wine”) before we all troop downstairs for oranges and English muffins.

As worshippers trickle into the little sanctuary, we smile and nod our good-mornings. Our collective sleepiness encourages contemplative silence. The low lights glow gold off the bare wood floor. The sanctuary’s chairs have been arranged in a horseshoe around the garland-wrapped Advent candle holders. I take a seat in the bend of the horseshoe and skim the printed liturgy in comfortable silence. I’m not usually one for morning devotions; pre-breakfast meditation leaves me dangerously drowsy. Today, I rub my icy thighs and resolve to keep my eyes open during prayer if necessary.

Pastor Matt begins the liturgy: O God, come to our assistance. O Lord, make haste to help us. Prepare the way for the Lord; make a path for our God in the desert.

Advent marks a strange, restless season of preparation and waiting. In Michigan, we squint at the darkened sky and wait for days when the sun will stick around past 5:00. Across Ann Arbor, hordes of students wait anxiously for exam slots and paper deadlines, staving off stress with procrasti-cleaning and bottomless cups of coffee. We wait to board planes, trains, or automobiles bound for home. We wait for the delicious r-r-r-rip of wrapping paper; we wait for radio DJs to get sick of playing “Christmas Shoes.”

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

During Advent, believers wait for the light. We wait for a day when ISIS no longer beheads journalists on camera. We wait for a day when black teenagers and police officers can look each other in the eye. We wait for a day when Ebola, drug cartels, and climate change fade in the rearview mirror. We wait for hope. We wait for justice. For mercy. For love. For light. For a Savior.

We praise and thank you, Creator God, for you have not left us alone. You come to us, Emmanuel, God with us in a manger. Each time, you come to us in the broken bread and the cup we share.

From our little horseshoe of chairs, we rise and ring the sturdy wood communion table. Don hands me a hunk of bread: the body of Christ for you. I pinch off a fingerful of the thick, wheaty loaf and turn to Josie: the body of Christ for you. Pastor Matt steps up with the cup: the blood of Christ for you. I dip and eat. Alleluia.

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed; all people shall see it together. This is the promise of the Lord. God’s promise will be fulfilled.

Light is coming to sear our earthly darkness. And He’ll be worth the wait.

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