As we now move into the Advent season, I think it might be worth thinking about what that really means. For one of my classes, I needed to prepare a brief (5-8 minute-ish) sermon to deliver as part of a worship service my group is leading in class. Below are my notes for said lesson.
- Advent is a time of year defined by expectant waiting for the arrival of Christ, the birth of the Messiah who has reconciled us to God, but all too often we only think of Christmas and Jesus’ birth from our own modern perspective. It is easy for us now to look at God’s plan of salvation and, if not understand it in its fullness, certainly to at least grasp the basic way in which God achieved our redemption.
- We often talk about God’s plan of salvation so matter-of-factly that we forget about the wondrous way God has chosen to interact with us. It is difficult, but try for a moment to get into the head of someone living in the era of the prophets of Israel, before Jesus’ coming. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
- “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.” -Isaiah 59:9-10
- The Psalms say:
- There are many who say, “Who will show us SOME good? Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!” –Psalm 4:6
- People, even the chosen people of God, who lived before Christ’s coming lived in a dark world. Not physically darker than that in which we live, but a place where darkness of spirit and un-Godliness reigned virtually unchallenged. Where the only people who knew the true God were located in a single region, and the rest of the world openly worshiped idols and demons in His place. It is difficult for us who live in a world of instant communication to understand, but in the days of the prophets there was nearly an entire planet that had never heard of Yahweh, His great faithfulness, or His promise of hope.
- The world was filled with spiritual darkness, against which the only hope was from God. How greatly must faithful followers of God have anticipated the Messiah? How they must have yearned, praying day after day for His coming to bring light into the darkness. For in the midst of the darkness, God sent His messenger to deliver hope for His people:
- “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” Isaiah 60: 1-3, 19-20
- In the middle of unquenchable darkness, God provided a hope for man to cling to, but He didn’t describe the whole plan; believers of the time could only trust in the Lord, for His good and perfect provision, then wait. Not simply biding their time, but expectantly, anticipating the day when their Redeemer would arrive.
- When Jesus came, He continued describing the world and His gospel in terms of darkness and light:
- “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12
- As I prepared for this lesson, two words jumped off the page at me from the last few sentences: “Jesus came.” Isn’t that amazing? We take for granted that He did, but what a relief! What an infinitely comforting thing, to have One who not only lights my way in the world, but IS the Light of the world. How blessed are we in this holiday season that we get to live at a point in history when Christ has already come and revealed Himself to us. How wonderfully blessed are we that in the middle of a dark world, we can KNOW the One who can light it up!
- This isn’t the end of Jesus teaching on light and darkness, however: Jesus, the King of Kings and Saviour of man also says to us:
- “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16
- THE Light of the world calls us to be HIS lights to the world. As we anticipate the arrival of the Christ, and His triumphant return, it is not good enough for us to stand alone, islands of vague light set apart from the darkness. We have been commissioned to go into the darkness and spread the light, the hope that we have been given.
At this point, we have a fun little participatory candle-lighting thing we’re doing, but that is neither here nor there. Hope this was en-light-ening.