The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.
“It’s the hap- happiest time of the year,” as the song goes. Tons of people trampling over each other in order to get the newest gadgets for their loved ones. People eating way more than they need to as if getting ready for hibernation. And everyone can’t wait until it’s all over. Is this what Christmas is all about? Or an even better question, is this what we’re waiting for, preparing for, hoping for?
In the historical church, and celebrated by many Christians still, this week begins the season of Advent. Most Christians use these four weeks leading up to Christmas to get our minds geared back into that Christmas mode. They work hard to combat getting sucked into all of the toys, gadgets, food, and family. It’s still a part of their experience but they don’t want to forget Jesus. That’s tremendous! Of course we don’t want to forget Jesus and why He came to earth for us. But what if we used these weeks leading up to Christmas in a different way? What if we prepared more for Jesus coming again, and on Christmas Day just celebrate what He has already done?
An Old Hope
I am a Star Wars fan, and I can’t wait until the next movie comes out in just a few weeks. And as a Star Wars fan, I appreciate the original movie, even before George Lucas tweaked it and and made it “A New Hope.” I want to see “An Old Hope” (though it wasn’t called that) and get back to what the original movie looked like.
In many ways, that’s my hope for viewing Advent in this way. I want to get back to the original intent that the early Church had for it. The term advent means dawning, or emerging. It’s about what’s on the horizon, and that’s really not Christmas. For Christians the hope that we have and the thing that we are really waiting for is Jesus to come back. He already came once, and that’s amazing. Let’s celebrate it! But don’t get so sucked into the worldly view of Christmas, the hustle and bustle of what it’s become, and forget that Jesus is coming back.
The verse above in Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkened have seen a great light.” It’s a done deal. It’s in the past. Isaiah is describing what has happened for people who have come into relationship with God. They’ve seen His work and redemption. They’ve been a part of it. Now, that they have seen the light they have hope and something to look forward to. For them it was Christmas. The people before Christ were waiting for their Messiah to come the first time.
But we too have seen the light. We have been brought out of darkness and into His marvelous light. We now await Jesus’ second coming which will be even bigger and more spectacular than the first time around.
A New Hope
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Now that we stand on this side of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection we have a new hope. We look to the resurrection of everyone from the dead. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we too will rise.
This is a great hope. We want to see Jesus face to face. We want to experience life with Him in perfection as it was before the Fall. Jesus has promised this and will make it happen. This is what Advent is all about. This is even what Christmas is about. Jesus came the first time to reorient us to Himself and help us see the Kingdom of God. He came to die and rise again for us to make us right with God. And all of that was in preparation for bringing the culmination of His work at the time of His second coming.
What would this Christmas season and the time leading up to it look like if we focused on His second coming? Would things change for your Christmas craziness? If you focused on the hope we have in Christ, would you become more generous? I am hopeful this year that things can be different. I believe the Church is in a season of refocusing and regaining who we are. The world is ready for a change and I know that Jesus can bring that. He will use His Church now to make a difference in the world. And I know that Jesus will come again and make all things new!