Dawning of Light
Advent begins this Lord’s Day, Dec. 3. Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17), as we (God’s people) wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Though Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming.
In the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and joyful carols, Advent is intended to be a season of waiting and watching. Yes, it can be difficult to pause and reflect; yet not impossible. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness and need for grace leads us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew his work in conforming us into the image of Christ. Advent is a time to cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Advent has been described beautifully in this manner: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.”
While Advent is certainly a time of celebration of Christ’s birth, it is more than that. It is only in the shadow of Advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated; and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense. It is between the fulfilled promise of Christ’s first coming and the yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of his second coming that the church waits with expectation today. Jesus Christ has come, and he will come again. This is the essence of Advent.
In our Advent series this year we will focus on God’s promise of a coming light that pierces the night. Thus, we begin this Lord’s Day by thinking of the darkness that precedes the light. God’s people received the promise of light in Isaiah 9:2-7. They were promised light in the places that only knew darkness. They were promised freedom instead of slavery. They were promised glory instead of shame. They were promised peace instead of war.
They were promised a child. Not just any child. They were promised a king—better than any king they knew. They were promised a king whose reign would be known by things like justice and righteousness and peace. They were promised a king whose reign would be without end.
They were promised an eternal king who would make everything right. Forever.
When Isaiah spoke of such things, however, few listened, and few believed. For those who did believe, it wasn’t Isaiah they believed, but instead the God who promised again and again that his passion for his people would make this miracle happen (v7).
Will you believe? Jesus once asked the question: ‘When the Son of Man returns will he find faith?’ Advent reminds us to watch and wait. Join us this Lord’s Day as we consider the darkness from which the Light of the world emerges. This is a wonderful time of the year to invite your friends and family to join you at church. Have you invited someone to come along with you? Would you? Will you pray for those who are walking in darkness?
I give thanks to God for the privilege of serving you as pastor and count it a joy to serve alongside each of you in the Kingdom. I give thanks to God also for the leadership and ministry of Chad and Richy as they serve the body of Christ. Michelle and I are eagerly anticipating joining you in this season of Advent. We love you in Christ. And for you we pray: “May He whose second coming in power and great glory we await, make you steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and constant in love. Amen.”