There is just something about stones… little children fill their pockets with them; adults collect them; kings used the rarest of them to adorn their crowns. Stones come in every color of the rainbow and display the most varied patterns. Transparent or opaque, light catching or dull, we are fascinated by them all. Or maybe their appeal is simply how good they feel in our hand or the way they hold the warmth of the sun.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we think of the stones and their close neighbors — seashells, crystals and bones. In Christian Community churches and on the home festival table, children lovingly bring their favorite stone to the mossy Advent garden. It is a way to honor this first kingdom of nature and recognize our connection to it. How else would we have firm footing on this earth, if not for the stones? How would we move and stand upright if not for the stones of the human body — our skeletal structure?
Stones give us a window into the eternal, the unshakable foundations of life. When one gazes upon the majesty of a great stone mountain, one cannot help but think of the Father God, Ground of the World. We know that no matter what happens, we can trust that he will give us the strength and steadiness that we need to step forward in life. The psalms sing of the Lord as our rock, as our firm place to stand:
The Lord is my rock,
my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock,
in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 18)
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40)
So how is it that stones are related to light? Maybe it has something to do with the way they were formed. Igneous rocks are formed through a fire process — molten lava mixing and flowing, spreading and cooling. Sedimentary rocks are formed from layers of mineral and organic material — organic material that once contained the fire of life. And the third type of rock, Metamorphic, is formed through transformative processes, such as intense heat or pressure; and we all know how light-filled a transformation can be!
Or maybe the light of stones has to do with the part they played in the birth and death of Jesus Christ. In the Luke gospel, Mary and Joseph find shelter in a cave, a stone grotto, which was used to house the domestic animals. It was here that the Jesus child was born and here that the shepherds found him wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. Then after his death on the rocky hill of Golgotha, the body of Jesus Christ was placed in a new tomb that was hewn out of the rock, and a great stone was rolled across the entrance. On Good Friday the stony mouth of the Earth received the precious body and blood of our Savior, on Holy Saturday the Christ journeyed to the center of the Earth, and on Easter Sunday the stone was rolled from the tomb and the Risen One came forth from the Earth. The sun rose from the interior of the earth… and even the stones were filled with light.