Recently we have taken time to honor family and friends who’ve died within the past year with All Saints Sunday. We have taken time to honor and offer gratitude for those who have served, and those who are now serving, in the armed forces during worship and through community observances. We’ve taken time to express gratitude before God and with loved ones for the blessings received. We now arrive at Advent’s threshold.
Though fought back with concluding Daylight Savings Time, it’s unlikely anyone fails to notice darkness is increasing. Students go to school in the dark, and before long, their parent’s workday will end as it began, in darkness. The hours of light fade. The fewer hours ofdaylight available are often dimmed, obscured with winter’s seemingly never-ending cloud cover. Into this, Christians enter Advent.
The season of Advent marks the beginning of a new church year. A time whereby we reflect anew on the meaning of the incarnation, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection - of Christ and for ourselves. In Advent we take time to focus on the threefold coming of Jesus Christ: in the flesh; in Word; in sacrament. Around this time we would do well to consider the question Martin Luther asked when contemplating the profound meaning of the Christmas story, “Why would the Lord of all the universe care enough about us mortals to take our flesh and share our woes?” (R. Bainton, Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1948)
It feels fitting the most hopeful season of the church year begins just as darkness increases. In days to come, Advent wreath candles will be lit. Not a moment too soon. The light produced by these flames stands against growing darkness. And every week, as the flame of another candle is added, the light shines brighter even as the darkness arrives sooner and lasts longer.
God’s love shines forth in the first breath of our life, in Christ, in those we love, in those who love us, in creation with its seasons. However, we only see what we focus upon. Too often, we choose to look not upon the goodness from God upon whom all blessings flow, but what feels missing, what seems to have been taken away, the lost dream lost with its anguish, the deep sadness from a beloved’s illness or loss. Grief in all these moments, and so many more, must be acknowledged and claimed. No sense pretending we always find joy in God’s plans and God’s divine timing which seldom seems to match our own.
Even so, God’s Word speaks to every faithful heart. The Bible teaches truth. God loves us. God works in each life for good … always for good. Philippians 1:6 tells us, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion …” I chose to trust the God of all creation who rules with purposeful wisdom. I know it’s true for me because it has been true throughout time.
Asking the question, “Why would the Lord of all the universe care enough about us mortals to take our flesh and share our woes?” leads us to consider all the ways in which God comes to us. With the season of Advent occurring the four weeks before Christmas Day, it can be easy to focus our eyes only on the baby Jesus cradled in the manger. But stepping back we can bring into view all the ways that God comes to us.
God splits the heavens and comes down not only in the event celebrated on Christmas day. The purpose of the season of Advent is not for Christians to transport themselves back two thousand years ago and pretend to be living in the first century while awaiting the Messiah. We live in the twenty-first century. So let us believe more firmly the truth that God has already come to us, is continuing on with us, and will be back to lead us personally to the dwelling place not made by hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).
We are the people of hope. This Advent may we believe and so live how Jesus showed possible. In this way, the light always overcomes the dark. May God be praised!
Rev. Colby Smith
Previous Highlights Newsletters
Highlights December 2022
Highlights September 2022