Season’s greetings. Rob here.
On Sunday the wreath came out of hiding, we found the candles and the banners, we sang ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ and our church celebrated the first Sunday of Advent. It’s a special time of year because it reminds us that there is more to this season than twinkling lights and late-night shopping. There’s more to the story than Christmas carols and Christmas trees. Advent tells us that the Messiah is coming, our rescue is coming and God is coming to make all things new.
It’s hard to underestimate just how dark things felt for Israel in the years before Christ’s coming. Corruption reigned from the throne of King Herod through to the High Priest and the practices of the temple regime. We see hints of this in the gospels with the hatred of tax collectors and the merchants in the temple grounds whom Jesus was appalled by. We also note in the gospels the presence of the Romans and how galling it must have been for Israel to be occupied once again by a pagan empire. Poverty, disease and oppression was rife. This is why Jesus was so busy! This was a humiliated nation. It was a far cry form the glory days under David and Solomon. They were crying out for rescue, yet at the same time, had almost given up on it. They were a nation divided between Pharisees and Sadducees; rich and poor; elite and peasant; north and south; passive and militant; faithful and faithless. It was into this setting that the angel Gabriel arrived in the deadbeat town of Nazareth and told a young virgin named Mary, betrothed to Joseph, that she was highly favoured, the Lord is with her and she will conceive and give birth to a son, the Messiah. As John writes, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world (John 1:9).”
That light has never left; “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).” Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Yet as I look out into my community, my country and this world I see the rise of oppression, darkness and outright evil. I see an angry enemy at work trying desperately to push back the light with darkness. He will fail. The human hunger for God may reveal itself in unhealthy ways at times but it doesn’t disappear. So Muslims suffering under ISIS see Jesus in their dreams and respond with faith. Doctors and nurses put themselves at huge risk of infection by volunteering to try and push back the scourge of Ebola. Desperate solo mums turn up at their local church. People with depression reach out and seek the help they need even though it’s the scariest thing in the world. In the midst of materialism, individualism and relativism people keep choosing to believe that in Christ there is a better way. We are hungry for God and the life he gives us in Christ. In him we put our hope, just as many in 1st century Israel did when they were suffering.
But here’s the real hope. There is another coming. One day, maybe one day soon, Christ will come and evil will be completely overthrown. The darkness will be overcome by the light and will cease to be. We will see clearly and joy will be ours. So let’s live in the light of that coming. Right now we can come against evil in the name of Jesus and see darkness be overcome by light. Right now we can come to Jesus for the help we need and access the resources of the kingdom as we live for him. We can live lives led by the Holy Spirit and show Jesus to a hungry world. This is Advent. Christ is coming. We have a sure and certain hope. He himself is our peace. In him, we know an inexpressible and glorious joy. He is love and we love because he first loved us.