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Advent: The Arrival of Hope

December 19, 2018 by

a drawing of three candles
artwork by Sheera Hinkey

This post is condensed from remarks delivered on the first Sunday of Advent:

Advent is the arrival of hope, a state of eager waiting for God to give something very special: Jesus our Savior, Redeemer, and healer. His coming brings a promise of a new kingdom where love rules, and there is no more suffering, sickness, sadness, or death. This hope has been alive since the beginning of time. It is alive in every heartbeat throughout history.

The Gospel of John opens with: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This everlasting light is a description of eternity, which is all God, all the time, no matter what forces of darkness array themselves against him. The Bible teaches us that sometime after the creation of our world, sin came into the world and into humankind. Sin is separation from God, a separation that brings fear, sorrow, pain, and death. But God who is eternal life and light gave us hope for renewal, rebirth, and redemption. He offers this hope to every generation of people from Adam to Noah, from Abraham to Moses, to all the kings and the prophets, and to you and me. This hope is Jesus, the Son of God who was sent to redeem and forgive, to heal and to teach. As John says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Today we need to prepare in our hearts a way for Jesus to come back to each of us.

Centuries before John, the hope of Advent was proclaimed by the prophets such as Isaiah who said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Shortly before Jesus was born, the angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, a priest who was married to Elizabeth. The angel told him that God would give them a son, John. Their child was going to prepare people for the coming of the Lord.

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. ­(Luke 1: 13-17)

Zechariah didn’t believe the angel because his wife was so old, and he was punished for his doubt by being unable to speak until the baby was born. The angel also went to Mary and Joseph and told them about Jesus coming to them, and Mary and Elizabeth spent time together preparing for their very special children. But when John was born, Zechariah’s tongue was loosened and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:76–79)

And so still today we need to prepare in our hearts a way for Jesus to come back to each of us, to guide our feet, our hearts, and our lives. Jesus will return and God’s kingdom will come on this earth, and every tear will be dried and there will be no more sorrow or pain or death. The dead will be raised to life again: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5). This is what we all wait for – we know it is coming. This is the hope of the Advent message. Advent is today!

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