Advent usually begins when the Christmas lights are lit.Â Whether on a tree, or strung on the house, or enjoying your communityâ€™s â€œHoliday of Lightsâ€ parade, or lighting the first wreath-ringed candle, festive lights signal the beginning of the Christmas season.
Originally, Advent began in the dark.Â For 400 years the prophetic voice of God was dark.Â Back in the day, the Egyptians and Israelites experienced 3 days of paralyzing physical darkness in the ninth plague.Â Now Godâ€™s people and the world experienced the plague of spiritual darkness for centuries.Â Godâ€™s word and work were dimmed and people longed for God to rescue them from gloom.
Then suddenly, it happened!Â God flipped the lights on.Â Jesus, the light of the world, entered our world.
Johnâ€™s Gospel puts it this way: â€œIn him was life,Â andÂ the life was the light of men.Â The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome itâ€¦ The true lightÂ that gives light to everyoneÂ was coming into the worldâ€ (John 1:4-5, 9).
Matthew in his Gospel account (4:16) quotes Isaiah 9:2: â€œThe people living in darknessÂ have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.â€
Fleming Rutledge said this, â€œThe authentically hopeful Christmas spirit has not looked away from the darkness, but straight into it. The true and victorious Christmas spirit does not look away from death, but directly at it. Otherwise, the message is cheap and false.â€
Admittedly, our culture has grossly devalued Advent.Â So much of Christmas is commercialized and consumer-oriented.Â Weâ€™re supposed to be â€œmerry and brightâ€ with Yuletide cheer.Â We dream of a white Christmas and hope that our chronic case of the â€œgimmeâ€™sâ€ will be satisfied with whatâ€™s under a tree.Â But baby Jesus is more than a nativity un-action figure.Â Heâ€™s the only hope for you and me.Â Heâ€™s the only one who can fill our longings and present us clean and sparkling before God the Father.
This Advent-time we can look at the worldâ€™s darkness and depravity with hope because Jesus, the Bright Morningstar, has come.Â We can pray with the Psalmist: â€œLet your faceÂ shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80).Â From dank dark basement of our despondency and depression, we can â€œarise from the dead, andÂ Christ will shine on youâ€ (Eph. 5:14).
And in this Advent, we can hope for the Second Advent when Jesus will triumphantly return to restore all that is flawed and fallenâ€¦ When Jesus will take us to be with him in â€œthe cityÂ [that] has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, forÂ the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.Â By its lightÂ will the nations walk, and the kings of the earthÂ will bring their glory into it,Â andÂ its gates will never be shut by dayâ€”andÂ there will be no night thereâ€ (Rev. 21:23-27).