Susan Baller-Shepard: Blue Flash of Advent

Wrapped in a blanket, windows open, I sit and wait for the green flash. It's mystery, surprise, and wonder wrapped in color spectrum separating and light refracting. Across the street from the Atlantic Ocean, seven stories up I've sat and watched the sunrise for years on vacation. Every time we would visit my mother-in-law, I'd wake early, sit in the dark, wait for the sun to rise.

This year my brother-in-law tells me I should try to catch the green flash of light at sunrise, tells me to try it with binoculars. I try it. I keep missing the mark. I know the time of the sunrise, 6:48 a.m., but the sun rises in a spot other than where I am looking. I watch the pink rays highlight the cloud bank. It will be there. Only it's not. It's rising over a few degrees to the south, out of my line of sight with the binoculars, and I have missed it.


Just like Advent. The king rises in an unexpected location, the plot doesn't play out as planned, not the usual cast of characters nor the suspected plot twists. Everything and every One is different.

During the Advent season, we promise to slow down, to sit, reflect, to not make lists upon lists, to let things go, to be present, to shop year round instead of last minute. All of that. And, to not let holiday panic overtake us. That too. In December, stuff jam-packs our days, our hours, our minds.

On the horizon, with the green flash, if there's a plethora of pollution, or if there's a crowded line of sight, the flash will be elusive, hard to see, harder to pinpoint. Stuff gets in the way. To see the green flash, a wide open horizon is needed, a sight line of miles, a wide expanse of perspective.

One of the liturgical colors for Advent is purple or blue. It switches to white on Christmas. For these brief shining weeks, it's blue. The Mt. Wilson Observatory site, quoting Lu Rarogiewicz, says

"Because contamination in the atmosphere scatters blue light removing it from the line of sight. More green light gets through and therefore is more clearly seen. In extraordinary conditions, a "blue" flash might be seen."

For many of us, our lives become so crowded that the blue light of Advent can't get through, can't be seen even if it's right out there in front of us.

Jules Vernes, one of the most translated writers in the world, author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, also wrote Le Rayon Vert (The Green Ray), about the green flash of light at sunrise and sunset. Vernes uses it as a metaphor, and writes of it, that it was "a green which no artist could ever obtain on his palette, a green of which neither the varied tints of vegetation nor the shades of the most limpid sea could ever produce the like! If there is a green in Paradise, it cannot be but of this shade, which most surely is the true green of Hope."

It's Advent, only for a flash. May we have the eyes to see, patience to wait, and focus to look in the right places for God. God ventured into it all, an infant in a cattle stall. God-with-us. Light in darkness. For unto us a child is born, a son given.  And the government, and so much else, will be upon his shoulders, and he'll be called many things in his lifetime and long after. He'll be called:

Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

It goes quickly, this season, in a flash, it's done.





What's dawning, and where?

What still has the power to surprise you?



Jules Vernes book "The Green Ray" or "Le Rayon Vert"


Taken with permission from Susan's blog at