The church season of Advent begins this Sunday.
The theme of Advent is expectation as we spend our time reading and reflecting on preparing to celebrate Jesus birth and what that meant and means to us and the world.
I often reflect on our personal journey through Advent and how we prepare ourselves, but Jesus’ coming was a arrival that would change the world. The impact of Jesus birth was a change needed in that moment in time and history, but it also was a promise of future changes. Jesus earthly life and ministry changed his time, but it also promised us that God would always be there to help lead us out of distress and darkness.
I am reminded of the wonderful Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” which speaks of that promise and echos our constant need for restoration to wholeness as we faithful live through the challenges that our world constantly puts before us.
Verse six sticks out among the verses for me today. It reads:
O come, O Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by your drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
This verse uses the images of light and darkness, the shadows of night being dispelled by the arrival of the brightness of the sun’s dawning. Although we can certainly in our own lives take comfort in God’s promise in Jesus to “disperse the gloomy clouds of night” that can be the personal challenges and hardships we face, during the ongoing pandemic the “gloomy clouds” and, indeed, “death’s dark shadow” have even greater poignancy to our whole world.
I do think that we often get caught up in thinking about our Christian faith as something deeply personal, and it certainly is, but it is more than that. God sent Jesus to redeem and restore the world, then and for every generation after that. Jesus was also intentionally born for our world today, in 2021, as much as Jesus was for the time he lived in.
That’s why we celebrate Advent every year, and it is why I think Advent has important meaning for our world today. It is one of the reason that I think our life-sized Nativity Figures on the church front lawn are so meaningful to us and to everyone who goes past our church at this time of year.
We need what Advent brings, HOPE.
Advent points us to God who brings hope in following and knowing Jesus. Jesus’ ultimate victory over death brings the Advent hope to us and our world where the tragedy and loss of the deadly pandemic has brought gloom and shadow.
Advent encompasses the hope that Jesus brings, like the light of the Sun dawning in this time of darkness. It speaks of the hope was and the hope that will be. The hope that God, in and through our Christian faith, offers to all the world.
The Rev’d Canon Rob Park