November 29th marked the first Sunday of Advent for the year 2020. I especially enjoy when Advent starts right on the heels of Thanksgiving. While I strive for a grateful heart at other times, Thanksgiving keeps me focused more intently on gratitude. And what better heart attitude than gratitude with which to begin Advent? I rejoice at the opportunity of gratefully waiting, anticipating the arrival of the promised Messiah. This year more than any other, we need advent hope in times of darkness.
Advent is a season of waiting, expecting and hoping. The word “advent” implies a “coming” or “visit”, and appropriately, at Christmas we prepare for “Christ”. Advent encompasses a rich tradition of remembering Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, forgive and restore. But we also remember our hope of the second coming of Jesus, and our need for a Savior to save us from sin. Lastly, I prefer to think of Advent as a way to prepare to welcome Jesus into my “world” and into my heart anew.
times of darkness
Despite the lyrics of the beloved Christmas carol, “Silent Night”, all was not “calm and bright” that first Advent. Just as Zechariah prophesied in Luke 1:78-79, God’s people sat in deep darkness and in the shadow of death. Matthew 4:16 further captures the extent of the darkness shrouding His people. Jesus came to a world, not full of comfort, joy and peace, but He stepped into a world shrouded in darkness and a people helpless to dispel it.
Jesus came that first Advent rather to bring peace to a world in turmoil and offer comfort to those who suffered. He entered the world bringing good tidings of great joy for those awash in a sea of sorrows. Jesus, the true Light came to dispel the darkness. Jesus, appearing as the true Advent hope in times of darkness.
A Seeming Hopeless Darkness
Today, we can easily gloss over the darkness of that first Advent. But consider the way in which Jesus entered the world at His birth. Sketchy details of His origins, an unwed mother, pregnant, her betrothed dealing with the shock and grief of that truth. Whispered suspicions, judgements, gossip spread throughout Nazareth. An arduous journey to Bethlehem; some believe Joseph took Mary with him even though she was not required to go, to protect her from condemning people. And finally the indignity of the stable and manger.
a light the darkness could not overcome
Jesus, the true Light that shined in the darkness, (John 1:5) came to defeat the deep darkness of God’s people. But that victory did not appear immediately, for “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him”. (John 1:11) Men loved darkness rather than light, because of their evil deeds. (John 3:19)For three decades Jesus, the Light of the world, lived, breathed and taught those who came to Him the truth that would free them from their darkness.
Until that day on Calvary, when Jesus delivered the final blow to death and darkness. From about the sixth hour until the ninth hour the world lay in a literal darkness, symbolizing the battle to wrest souls from sin and evil. Then followed by the darkest sabbath while Jesus, the true Light lay dead, held by darkness and the shadow of death for the last time. There in that very darkness the Light defeated the powers of death and darkness once and for all.
light in times of darkness
As Christians, we celebrate deliverance from the kingdom of darkness, now dwelling in the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son, Jesus. (Colossians 1:13) We know that God shined the light of the glorious gospel into the darkness of hearts, (2Corinthians 4:6), yet we live in a dark world. While God graciously brought the Light of the world to us in our darkness, He also fashions us to shine that light to others.
2020 offered us some of the darkest days we can remember. We live under ominous clouds of an oppressive and slow moving pandemic, racial and varied injustices and a contentious election outcome. All of which many of us have never seen in our lifetimes. How can we offer advent hope in times of darkness to those around us?
advent hope in times of darkness
Advent begins just as the days of winter darken, as we head into the darkest six weeks of the year in this hemisphere. May we remember the true Light shines brighter at the darkest of times. As we celebrate the first Advent of Jesus Christ at Christmas may our hope in His Second Coming compel us to shine into the darkness around us.
Midway through the six weeks of winter darkness we’ll turn and focus on the most brilliant turning point in all of history; the birth of Christ. What will this Christmas offer us? Perhaps at the end of a year such as this, we may see the Day Star from on High appear such as we never saw before. Advent is about hope, waiting, expectation and the knowledge that no darkness will overcome His Light.
Whether or not you have a specific Advent tradition, my new resource, “Welcoming Emmanuel” Bible Verse Reflections to Prepare Your Heart For Christmas”, is a wonderful addition or stand alone resource designed to enrich your daily quiet times. The best part? It’s FREE! Sign up below and grab your copy today!