Malachi 3:1-2 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
This coming Sunday is the beginning of the season of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, or Christian calendar. Like the weekly commemoration of the ‘Lord’s supper, there is value in the annual commemorations of the Christian calendar. Starting with people in darkness the year progresses through stages: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter then ‘ordinary’ time. It’s culmination is with the celebration of Jesus Christ as king. Now that is something for which to be thankful! And we just did with Thanksgiving.
Having celebrated in thanks for what we have received we then look forward again restless, uneasy, hungering not in a physical but spiritual sense. Advent (the coming) calls to mind (commemorates) a time of longing when the people of God looked with anticipation for the long awaited Messiah. Isaiah held out the promise:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” - Isaiah 9:2
But he spoke almost 700 years before the first advent, the incarnate manifestation of that light.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere this darkness is given reinforcement by the winter season, natural light is at its nadir, it was dark by 4:30 here last night. And we are surrounded with regular reminders of the darkness in the unregenerate human heart. Be it the war in Israel, the reminder of massacre at Covenant school in our own town, deeds of lawlessness, are ever around us.
The first Advent longings foreshadow the incarnation (Jesus coming in the flesh). Look closely at the passages from Malachi and Isaiah above. And Daniel had an inspired vision:
"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”- Daniel 7:13-14
But we now live 2000 years after this first advent yet the situation in the world seems remarkably similar to the time before the first advent. Is faith in vain? Has God abandoned His people? Will we be perpetually in this darkness? The eye of faith knows better, we remain in the struggle but we need the encouraging reminder. Here is the ultimate promise:
Revelation 11:15-16 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, Now, look again at the familiar words of Jesus:
Matthew 5:14-16 “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.
We are invited to act on our mission to ‘GO’ letting our lights shine, proclaiming the ‘light’ as Isaiah did. We are not the light but our lives are called to reflect it.
1 John 1:5-7 Walking in the Light This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
We still have need for Advent: for the season of anticipation, for holding onto the promises, for mutual encouragement, for fidelity in the face of fear, promise in the face of pessimism, sanctification in the face of sin, renewed reminder that we have a savior who has made His Advent once and promises to do it again. Or lives must proclaim this truth.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.—He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”- Revelation 22:13,20