- December 5, 2003
- By John Rutledge
Advent transforms darkness to light
While serving a Baptist church in Germany nearly 40 years ago, I learned about Advent, the season of anticipation and preparation for many Christians who celebrate at Christmas the birth of Jesus Christ. And it was a time of awakening for me.
As our family observed Advent, it made sense to me. It reminded me that darkness can be penetrated by light. The first step of Advent is to consider anew the darkness, the confusion and the hopelessness that prevailed before the coming of Jesus. There had been 400 years of prophetic silence before Jesus' birth. The Jews, God's covenant people, had suffered greatly under Greek and Roman tyranny. They awaited the Messiah. Would the promise be fulfilled?
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The angel Gabriel said to a virgin girl: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." And it scared her. It would me too! "Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High."
Mary's astonishment can be heard in her question, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
The angel had the answer: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you ... . For nothing is impossible with God."
Mary didn't understand that any more than we do, but she said in holy faith: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." As the Spirit of God moved over chaos and brought worlds into being at the Creation, the Holy Spirit of God who created all life brought new life into being in the womb of the virgin Mary. The Word that brought light into being on that long-ago first day of creation became tiny flesh in Mary's body that he might dwell with us and become the long-awaited Light in our darkness.
Those of us who have been Christians since we were children often have little appreciation for the depth of the darkness that surrounds the hopeless, the broken and the discarded peoples of the earth. We can be so impatient with their hurts and their unbelief.
That is why Advent helps. It makes me feel and think my way back into a time I have never known much about. How empty would my life be without Jesus? How desperate would I be for light in my darkness if I had no friendship with the One who lights the way for me? Every time I have experienced fear or disappointment or shame, Jesus has been there to comfort, encourage and forgive. He has called me to make right what could be made right, and he has given me courage to move forward when I wanted to stay where I was, my shoes nailed to the floor.
"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear."
And Mary said to the angel, "Let it be to me according to your word." That is what I want to say to God at Advent and all through the year: "Let it be, dear Lord, let it be!"
We are loved, indeed!
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