Its official, men are no longer sure what they can say. Last week an elderly gentleman complimented my outfit and then promptly recanted and apologized. Little did he know that as a 35 year old mother of two zoo animals, I actually appreciate being told I look nice. Nonetheless, I suppose we will all just stand around and not interact. That should take care of everything.

The surprise and outrage are jarring to me. Who finds it surprising that this has happened? That sexual deviancy is rampant? That women, still relatively new to the workplace, have been treated horribly? It is yet another moment when our surprise at sin is one big colossal waste of my brain energy. Or perhaps we just love the adrenaline rush that accompanies personal fury. I certainly do. And it is all unfolding at Advent no less, a season when energy is already running at a premium. The Devil wins again. 

Given the horrors of headlines we see in countries where women are blatantly discriminated against, I have wondered if this is simply another moment of failed American exceptionalism. Or perhaps its just one more example of failed human exceptionalism. We are collectively disappointed that we have come so far and there is still so much work left to do. As if there is some magical arrival point. As if there is any real arrival to find this side of heaven.

Of all the commentary I have read on the subject in the past few weeks, it has been a piece written by Fleming Rutledge, a full six years ago, that has explained things most clearly to me. Of course, she was not writing about our current scandals, but she was writing about this time of year, Advent, the season before Christmas. Rutledge wisely observed, “Advent begins in the dark.” Whether its the darkness of the headlines, our inability to be honest about sin, or our white hot anger, the dark feels pervasively victorious right now.

But she reminds us of what is to come:

It is from beyond human capacity that the announcement comes: “Behold, I am doing a new thing” Isaiah 43:19). The Light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5) is not the light of religion, not even the light of religious faith. It is the uncreated Light, not part of this darkened sphere at all, not bound by it, not contiguous with it, not limited by it, not projected from it, not coexistent with it but rather, God from God, Light from Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not created. 

It is her words about light that speak so clearly to our current wretched estate. I have noticed in much of the coverage about sexual assault and harassment that we have demanded something very specific of light: We want it do the work of persecution. We are all posting the latest about Matt Lauer or Al Franken and commenting, “We want these people to be brought out into the light! We want the truth to come to light! We want shed light on the situation!”

When what we really mean is that we want these men to be thrown into the rings of outer darkness. And if I were in charge that is precisely where they would go. If you are creepy as hell then you’ll obviously fit right in. But of course, I’m not in charge of the light or the darkness. I simply inhabit them both.

Our version of light is very different from the Light that is coming. Our light persecutes and condemns. Our light is a judgmental spotlight that seeks out the sinner and yells, “Everyone look! This person is beyond repair!” It is never a light that any of us want to be in. Because it is a light whose very particles assign darkness.

God’s light is different. So different, that our use of the word “light” in these headlines is a modern heresy. When we look into our light we the executioner’s face. When we look into God’s light we see all of our sin and all of God’s forgiveness in a stream of bold promise. Promise that we are loved even when we have forgotten. Promise that we are forgiven even when no one believes we should be. Promise that the light will indeed overcome the darkness.

I will not be surprised by sin in all its horrors. I know my own life’s damage all too well for that. But I hang my hat on what is to come. The sun is rising. The Light is almost here. And I am longing for its warm and knowing embrace.