I’ll be real with you. I didn’t grow up in church, attending services all through the Christmas season as a kid. So as an adult, when I began attending in my late 20’s, advent appeared ritualistic in nature to me. Hear me out…I understand the meaning of Christmas. But the lighting of all the candles, the Scriptures read? I never understood their purpose or place in the whole celebration. I guess it was expected that I should. However, I didn’t know what these practices and rituals had to do with Christ and his birth. Even more confusing, was what I was supposed to do with the candle-lighting, and those verses. How did they apply?
As I dive deeper into His Word, searching it daily for where He is leading me-I discovered something as I started to read the “ritual” advent devotionals. I discovered that just like Thanksgiving, advent isn’t just a season, it’s a way of life.
The whole reason we focus on advent this time of year is, yes, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but more importantly to remember and reflect on what that means to us, for us today, and how we are to respond.
Essentially, the word “advent” means “coming.” Sure. It is a season of remembrance for the day Christ came into the world, to reflect on how he lives in the world today, and a reminder to be living in expectation of his return. His second coming.
But shouldn’t we live in this expectancy every day? He could come back at ANY time. Certainly we should live daily as if we are ready.
The first candle lit traditionally on the advent wreath is the candle of hope. Hope in a Messiah who will save from sins. Hope in His return. It’s also known as the “prophecy candle,” the hope that God will fulfill His promises. A promise that there is light and hope in darkness.
Yet, even during Christmas evil doesn’t rest. It may even seem that during the long, cold days of winter that stretch on and on, things become darker. Add the holiday season, its feelings of loneliness and sorrow that can come along, and light can be hard to see. Greed abounds due to the hustle and bustle to shop, shop, shop; and statistically even crime often soars, as the desperate attempt to meet the demands of the secular “season” become too much for some to bear.
If there is anything we need now more than ever, especially as we continue to fight a virus we hoped would be gone by now-it is light. Hope. The hope that in all this darkness and despair, a light would appear.
Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15 of the source and assurance of this hope and light: This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and I am the worst of them all.
In terms of hope and overcoming darkness, our hope lies in the promise of a saving grace. Salvation through the birth, and later death of Christ that returns us to the “good” God originally intended for us. Because our story of hope actually begins where “good” began-at creation. God created man and woman; humans as good, in His image, and without blemish. The Garden of Eden was intended to be a place of light, of His security, until evil entered in, and was not only accepted, but grasped ahold of, and sunk its teeth into goodness and light.
Evil exists because of the free will of humans. The choice made by Satan’s temptation, and God was forthcoming in what would occur as a result, stating the consequences in Genesis 3:16-19:
He told the Woman:
“I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth;
you’ll give birth to your babies in pain.
You’ll want to please your husband,
but he’ll lord it over you.”
He told the Man:
“Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree
That I commanded you not to eat from,
‘Don’t eat from this tree,’
The very ground is cursed because of you;
getting food from the ground
Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife;
you’ll be working in pain all your life long.
The ground will sprout thorns and weeds,
you’ll get your food the hard way,
Planting and tilling and harvesting,
sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk (MSG)
Conflict. Between man and woman. Parent and child. Pain. Suffering. Struggle. Life, essentially, would NOT be easy.
But God made another promise as well: Satan would be crushed, and He would provide restoration for our brokenness.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17, NLT
This is our hope. Our light in the darkness. It’s how God intends to overcome evil, and we get to choose if we are going to let the light in, or continue to be consumed by the darkness.
What do you choose? Do you want the light of the world? The hope that resides in knowing a Savior? You can…simply choose Him today.