“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
When I woke up around 7am, the sky looked like it was about 4:30pm with the sun preparing to set. When I got out of class at noon, it looked the same. By the time it was actually 4:30, it was even darker than usual. The sky was dark because the air pollution was so thick. The sun’s rays couldn’t fully penetrate through to the earth. As you may know, Beijing has been struggling with air pollution in the last few weeks. We saw two days of the worst pollution since I’ve been here—it was over 600 on the AQI (air quality index). For reference, the AQI is supposed to stop at 500. Then a north wind came through and blew the pollution out of Beijing, and we enjoyed three or four days of beautiful blue skies. Then the pollution returned. This time the AQI was predicted to be over 200 for 3 or more days, and the Beijing government instituted the first ever “red alert” that meant only half the registered cars could drive each day, factories and construction sites were closed, and most schools were closed. The skies cleared again today, but it isn’t supposed to last for too long.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that I’ve been drawn to light in my Christmas decorations this year. After having my tree set up for a few days, I decided there were not enough lights and ordered bigger lights (the photo is with light option #1). That necessitated un-decorating and re-decorating the tree. The old tree lights are now draped in my living room. Candles are nestled between my nativity scenes. An advent wreath sits on the coffee table. These light sources push back at the darkness of air pollution shrouding Beijing.
The day that seemed like it was 4:30pm all day, I felt creation groaning (Romans 8:22). Sin has corrupted all parts of the world, even the air that we need to breathe. From my fourteenth floor apartment, I gazed out—not very far—at the effect of sin hanging in the air. I could see creation heaving and groaning in a way I had never seen before.
During Advent, we wait with hope and expectation. On Sunday, I learned Chinese has a word that means hope, longing, and expectation. The pastor explained it to us with an example: in Beijing we wait with this sort of expectation for “APEC blue” skies. They don’t happen very often, but we long for them. The Jewish people were waiting with expectation for a Messiah, and finally a “light shone in the darkness.” Christ, the light of the world, entered the world as a tiny baby and finally conquered the power of sin. And now we wait with expectation for Christ to return, to create a new heavens and a new earth. In those new heavens and new earth, the skies will always be APEC blue, or maybe something even better. When the AQI climbs and air pollution closes in, I long for those new heavens and new earth more deeply. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.