Greetings, church family. As we observe Advent in 2020, we will be posting a blog each week, leading up to Christmas Day.
As you know, Advent is the season leading up to Christmas. It is a Latin term that means “coming” or “arrival”. For the people of God who lived before Christ’s arrival, Advent was a looking forward thing. Christ was promised in the Scriptures but had not yet come. So for them, they looked forward to the promised Savior’s arrival.
For believers today, who live after Jesus’ arrival about 2000 years ago, there is a looking back at Christ’s first coming. However, there also exists a looking forward aspect to Advent as we await with anticipation Jesus’ second coming.
Traditionally, Christians use candles to celebrate advent. The candles symbolize Christ who is the "Light of the World”. One candle is lit each Sunday during the four weeks that lead up to Christmas Day. On the first Sunday, one candle is lit. On the second Sunday, the first candle plus a second candle is lit, and so forth for the remaining weeks. On Christmas Day, a total of five candles are lighted. The increased light that each successively lit candle brings reminds us in a tangible way of Jesus’ increasing presence and nearness as the Light of Life and the One sent by God who has come to save us from our sin and darkness.
Traditionally each Sunday’s candle focuses on a specific aspect as God’s people await the Savior's coming. The first candle is purple, and is called the “Prophet’s candle”. It serves to remind us that the prophets of the Old Testament waited with a deep sense of hope for Jesus to arrive.
The prophet Isaiah knew well this hope. In Isaiah 9:2 he says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
The year 2020 has provided more than enough events to fill a boatload of disappointments and truckload of reasons to despair. Many have seen people they know affected; some have even lost loved ones to COVID-19. Our most recent election has the rest of the world wondering “What will become of this American experiment and the United States of America?” Globally, all are feeling the pinch of trying economic times.
Yet in the midst of all this, Isaiah continues on and reminds us in verses 3-4 that we are to be a people of great joy because the Light of the World has come and rescued us from darkness.
He has rescued us from the darkness of a sin-cursed creation that doesn’t function as God intended.
He has rescued us from the darkness of a real enemy whose goal is to kill and destroy us.
He has rescued us from the darkness of our own sin and rebelliousness toward a holy and just God.
At times it’s easy for me to feel like darkness in the world is overwhelmingly powerful, but Isaiah reminds us that Jesus, the Light of the World, is infinitely more powerful. As we look to Jesus’ second arrival, we are joyful and have hope because His Holy Spirit has already enabled us to see Him and embrace Him as the true Light of the World who has come and will return again. When He finally does return to rule and reign perfectly, there will be no more sin-cursed creation characterized by death and decay, no more illnesses nor disease. There will be no powerful enemy Satan to tempt us, out to destroy us. There will be no more wrestling with our own inner temptations either.
We rejoice because of the hope we have, knowing that even in the midst of the darkness of our present world, we who know Christ do not remain in darkness (John 12:46). We rejoice because of the hope we have, knowing that in the end all those who believe in Christ will live in His heavenly city in the presence of God’s glory (Revelation 21:23; 22:5).
This season, when you and I are tempted to think that the darkness in our world is overwhelmingly powerful, let’s try this exercise that will remind us of how the light easily overcomes the darkness. First, sit in a room with all the lights off and windows closed. Soon, notice how the effects of darkness will overtake of our senses: it leaves us with no bearings; it hides dangers from us; it doesn’t allow us to see, leaving us feeling blind; it leaves us helpless; it leaves us cold and susceptible to dangers we are not aware of.
Then simply introduce into all that darkness a source of light by lighting a candle. Now, take in how that source of light causes all those effects of darkness to flee, disappear, be gone. Take in with all your senses how the light brings warmth, a sense of safety, security, peace, freedom and how the light rids us of our fears. And then with a posture of deep hope and thankfulness, let’s rejoice for behold, we know as believers that the Light has come and will come again!
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. – Isaiah 60:1
Awaiting His second coming with you all in confident hope,