Advent Series I - The First Sunday of Advent (Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-20)
As Christians we are in a unique situation. We believe that the Messiah has already come and has brought with him hope and salvation, yet we believe that the Messiah must come again to usher in his kingdom in all its power and glory. Advent is that season when we both wait to celebrate how Jesus brought the world hope and salvation when he was born that first Christmas, and we wait for his return when all the Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled completely.
As we wait for the return of Jesus, one of the questions we might ask ourselves is: What difference did Jesus make when he was born as a child some 2000 years ago? Jesus revealed God’s love for the entire world. God loves the world and everyone in it. Jesus came to demonstrate the depth of God’s love for all people, and to offer to all people forgiveness and the hope of salvation. The death of Jesus on the cross stands at the center of his work as the Messiah. In the darkness of a world divided by nations and cultures, Jesus reveals the light of God’s love to all. In the darkness of a world of greed, and power and might, Jesus sheds the light of service to others, kindness, and sacrificial giving. In the darkness of a world of sin and death, Jesus offers forgiveness and the hope of eternal life.
During the season of Advent, we reflect upon all those ways that Jesus came into this world and made a difference. Our lives are fundamentally different because of what Jesus did when he came as Messiah. Jesus calls us to follow after his example of service, sacrifice and love. Jesus calls us to place our faith in his sacrificial death on the cross as our hope of life and salvation. The coming of Jesus as Messiah was light in the midst of the darkness of the world. Jesus shed light on what it means to live a God-pleasing life of love in this world, and to live with hope in the midst of the suffering and death of this world. The first coming of Jesus calls us to have faith in the assurance of his promises, and to take up our crosses and follow him.
So Advent is a time when we focus our attention on how Jesus brought the light of his love and salvation into the darkness of the world. But despite the first coming of the Messiah, the darkness continues. This remains a world of suffering, sin, and death, but advent is a time to seek and celebrate the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness of the world. Advent is also a time to wait for the return of the Messiah. Advent is also looking forward to the time when the darkness will be banished and there will only be light. All of those prophecies we read in our service today focused upon what it will be like when Jesus returns and ushers in his kingdom in all its power and might.
We still wait for the day when people will live righteous lives that are honest, fair, compassionate, and caring. We still wait for the day when all violence will cease and the calf and the lion will lie down together. We long for the day when the glory of the Lord will be revealed and life will be a celebration of God’s love, grace and salvation in our midst. We long for the day when there will be no more poor who suffer hunger and distress, and they will live life in peace, safety, and with all their needs met. Advent is that time of the year when we look at all those prophecies in the past, and we wait with faithful expectation that the day will come when those prophecies will be fulfilled.
Advent is not just a countdown to Christmas. It is a time to focus on the light of God that comes into the darkness of the world. When Jesus came the first time, he brought us light in the midst of the darkness. He brought us love and hope, in the midst of the darkness. In Advent we celebrate that light we now have in the darkness of our world, but we also wait for that day when the darkness itself will be banished. That day will come! Let us wait with faith, hope, and love. Amen.