Wednesday, December 14, 2011

mid-week Advent 3

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, as we sit these days in darkness, we look to the advent of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, as our light. Grant even now your eternal light to come to us for our salvation on the Last Day. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The days have grown shorter, and already tonight—even as we sat to supper—darkness has surrounded us. As we neared the end of this past church year, we heard every Sunday about the Last Day. Through November, we watched the trees lose their leaves and become bare. The earth we saw dry and harden for winter as well. The days even then were growing shorter, but now, in Advent, we see all the clearer our helplessness in the expanding dark.

And what can we of ourselves do about the darkness? We do have electricity. And when that fails, we have candles. But even with these utilities, our sight is limited. And without these utilities, our sight is gone. Ultimately, we must recognize our dependency upon something. In the darkness, we are blind. Look outside and walk at this hour, and you will know your bondage in this dark place. In the dark, you know only yourself. You cannot long keep track of anyone else. In the dark, you know you are alone. Our blindness in the dark of night only illustrates a more severe blindness—our spiritual blindness. As Isaiah speaks to our condition, “We grope for the wall like the blind; / we grope like those who have no eyes; / we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.”

Advent, though, is a time of hope. Amid the mall and outlet store bustle, we latch onto that true purpose of the season—the Christmas Child. But how ironic that during this season of hope, our days grow darker and darker, with darkness increasing even into the day of Christmas itself! This darkness, these last autumn days—these days of Advent—in which we now walk demonstrate to us our need for a saving light. Therefore, the growing darkness as we approach Christmas is not really so ironic. Here, in the night, we grope desperately for the manger light.

And God does not leave us in the darkness! Nor does He wait for us to find our own way. No! He brings the light to us! The Light—God Himself—became man and dwelt among us. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Again, the glory of God shone upon the shepherds in the night, as His angel proclaimed His word to them: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  God breaks through darkness to us in His Son Jesus Christ.

In Christ, God fulfills His promises to His people. As He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I will give you as a covenant for the people, / a light for the nations, / to open the eyes that are blind, / to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, / from the prison those who sit in darkness.”  God continues, saying, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, / in paths they have not known I will guide them. / I will turn the darkness before them into light, / the rough places into level ground. / These are the things I do, / and I do not forsake them.”

In this way, God Himself brings us into the year of His favor. Having anointed His Son, Jesus, as the awaited Christ, the Christ crucified, dead, and buried; raised on the third day from the dead—salvation is won for us. Of ourselves, we are spiritually destitute, with all courage and heart plainly broken in the shackles of our dark cells. Now, no longer. No longer do we rot alive in a dungeon’s darkness. Now, we live, and we live free. We live in Christ, and we are therefore free from the sin, death, and power of Satan to which we would otherwise be imprisoned. Now death and darkness in this world only remind us of Christ Who suffered their sting on our behalf. Now and forevermore, we live in the eternal year of our Lord, even while we await Christ’s Second Coming, when the Wedding Feast will begin in all its fullness. There, with all comfort, the oil of gladness will replace mourning. Heavenly garments will cover all shame. And we will have the festive adornments of the wedding of Christ to His Church. The shroud of our darkness will be finally lifted, as God spoke through Isaiah, “The sun shall be no more your light by day, / nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; / but the LORD will be your everlasting light, / and your God will be your glory. / Your sun shall no more go down, / nor your moon withdraw itself; / for the LORD will be your everlasting light, / and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
To this end we pray now and always, “Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Seminarian Nathan Neugebauer

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