Advent usually begins when the Christmas lights are lit. Whether on a tree, or strung on the house, or enjoying your community’s “Holiday of Lights” parade, or lighting the first wreath-ringed candle, festive lights signal the beginning of the Christmas season.
Originally, Advent began in the dark. For 400 years the prophetic voice of God was dark. Back in the day, the Egyptians and Israelites experienced 3 days of paralyzing physical darkness in the ninth plague. Now God’s people and the world experienced the plague of spiritual darkness for centuries. God’s word and work were dimmed and people longed for God to rescue them from gloom.
Then suddenly, it happened! God flipped the lights on. Jesus, the light of the world, entered our world.
John’s Gospel puts it this way: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).
Matthew in his Gospel account (4:16) quotes Isaiah 9:2: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Fleming Rutledge said this, “The 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.”
Admittedly, our culture has grossly devalued Advent. So much of Christmas is commercialized and consumer-oriented. We’re supposed to be “merry and bright” with Yuletide cheer. We dream of a white Christmas and hope that our chronic case of the “gimme’s” will be satisfied with what’s under a tree. But baby Jesus is more than a nativity un-action figure. He’s the only hope for you and me. He’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 world’s darkness and depravity with hope because Jesus, the Bright Morningstar, has come. We can pray with the Psalmist: “Let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80). From dank dark basement of our despondency and depression, we can “arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (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 fallen… When Jesus will take us to be with him in “the city [that] has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there” (Rev. 21:23-27).