Advent epitomizes joy, wonder, hope, and light in the midst of darkness. This year I think we can use that light and wonder and hope! I have had too many conversations with folks who feel so much anxiety and sadness over where we seem to be in the world, who feel as if they have reached the end of their rope. We have a country that is deeply polarized, and the rhetoric we hear from elected leaders on all sides is troubling. The news about climate change is terrifying. On much more personal levels, it seems that so many folks are struggling with heavy burdens. It feels dark right now, just as it felt dark for God’s people so many times before. Sarah and Abraham struggled with barrenness. Moses faced an impossible task of changing Pharaoh’s heart. God’s people struggled under kings who had forgotten the widow and the orphan, and turned their backs on those who lived at the edges of society. There were times of war, and times of exile, and times of grief and loss. But just when things seem darkest, God breaks in with light and hope and love and celebration.
In our own darkness, Advent breaks in with a light that shines brightly in the darkness of the world. In Advent we begin a new year, a new cycle that takes us from the darkness to light. We begin in the quiet light of a birth, in a small all but forgotten town called Bethlehem. We journey with Jesus, the revolutionary who models for us a whole new way of thinking, a new way of living our lives for the sake of the world around us, a new way of loving our neighbors and our enemies. Our journey takes us to a banquet room in Jerusalem, and then to a cross outside the city walls. And in the twinkling of an eye, we find ourselves celebrating new life and hope and light as we gaze into an empty tomb and hear those glorious words, “He is not here. He is risen!”
Advent invites us to take those first few steps on this journey. We enter this new season in the darkest months of the year as winter takes a hold of us, and we acknowledge that our world can be filled with disappointment, grief, and hopelessness. But as we hear the words of the prophets, we hear God’s Word of hope and light and love. Isaiah proclaims to us an upside-down world of a carpet of flowers blooming in the lifeless wilderness, cool rushing water springing up in the desert’s burning sand. Isaiah paints the picture of a tree stump that has been cut off and left for dead, but God has other plans, and a lush, green vine springs alive out of death. We hear about a woman who is about to bear a son and name him Immanuel, God with us. Micah points us to a tiny little town, the city of King David, the hope of a future messiah, where a new king is about to be born. And a young girl from a backwoods town called Nazareth, receives a startling visit from an angel who tells her a story that will forever change the world. God still speaks to us now, in our own lives, in our own time, in our own dark places, whispering words of transformative hope and light and love. Listen. Watch. And wait. God is speaking.
In this season of quiet light, may you find the hope God gives to us in the birth of a tiny baby. May you feel the warmth of God’s love surrounding you wherever you go. And may you hear the song of the angels singing the joy of Immanuel, God with us.