They were dark days. Perhaps the darkest.
Cruelty, brutality, violence, disease, and death left most people in despair. Survival drove people to extreme measures. Loyalty meant little. Families were fractured. Communities bred suspicion and competition. Could it be more bleak? The first century was not for the faint-hearted.
And the apostle John, in a moment of classic understatement, wrote: “The Light shines in the darkness…. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every person.” (John 1:5, 9)
Advent, which simply means “arrival,” refers to the month-long period leading to Christmas. It marks a season of repentance and expectation.
Most of us tend to be fixated on the single day we call Christmas. We buy gifts right up until Christmas Eve. We prepare food—and sometimes lots of it—in preparation for the day. Decorations go up. Cards go out. “Must. Beat. December 25th.”
But for those of us who follow Jesus, Advent may produce a richer spiritual experience than Christmas Day. Advent invites us to seek, experience, and share the Light in a new way, not with a sudden burst on a single day but steadily over some weeks.
The Light that John wrote about is not defined by refracted rays but by restored lives. The Light—which is Christ—shines in our shadows. He gives clarity to the unsure, confidence to the fearful, and hope to the broken.
Growing up, I assumed that Christmas is for children. Yes, we remember the birth of Jesus. We may even place nativity scenes around the home. But this is really a kids’ holiday. The baby Jesus hardy appeals to adults—especially men.
How did I miss it?
In fact, this season is for everyone enveloped in darkness. It seems appropriate that Christmas falls (in the northern hemisphere) on almost the shortest and darkest day of the year. Advent speaks to the Beacon amidst the bleakness. “The Light shines in the darkness.”
And I wonder. While I receive the Light of Christ into the darkness of my own life, will I be the Light of Christ in the darkness of someone else’s life this season? Does His coming to me, prompt my going to others?
Christ has arrived. And His continual coming commissions our going. Do we have sufficient courage and conviction to respond?