December Reflection: Hope Is Nearer Now
It was a troubling time. The light was faint. It seemed distant, barely identifiable.
People were over-taxed and underpaid. It was impossible to escape wars and strife. Injustice and oppression cast a dark shadow over everyday life. Roman senators and governors promised to make life better, but with each passing year, the people realized that promises are easier to make than to keep.
Living conditions were difficult. Feeding your family required a massive effort. Jews hated Gentiles, and Gentiles hated Jews. Clinging to hope seemed unreasonable.
Their cherished prophet, Isaiah had promised:
“For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:3-5 NRSV)
The people of Israel admired their prophets. However, their day-to-day darkness made it difficult to see the light of the Lord. And, how is it possible to walk in the light of the Lord if you can’t see it?
It wasn’t just Isaiah’s voice pointing people to the light. After Christ’s first Advent (his first coming) Paul reminded them:
“For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:11-14 NRSV)
Possibly, like Israel of old, we too have a difficult time recognizing that “our salvation is nearer to us now.” Sometimes it can feel as if the night is still here. But we are children of the light, not darkness!
People who live in darkness need light. Light gives illumination for our steps. Even the small flickering light of a candle offers warmth and comfort to those in darkness. Those waiting for Christ’s first coming needed light, and the same is true today.
We still need His light.
In the 2,000-plus years after Christ’s first Advent, we have seen a lot of progress in our world. Our living conditions may have improved from those in Israel before Christ’s birth. However, even the advent of electricity wasn’t enough to take our darkness away.
We can acquire the latest greatest gadgets. We can achieve greater wealth and success. We can even place our trust in people who promise to make our lives better. But none of those things will deliver us from our hopelessness. None of those things can take away our darkness.
I’m not opposed to retailers making a profit. I understand why, in such a competitive environment, they encourage us with non-stop advertisements that begin even before Thanksgiving! It’s also understandable why politicians continually press us to vote for them. But it’s not the purchase of retail merchandise, the promise of politicians, or the desire for success that will alleviate my darkness. These distractions and those like them make it easy for me to miss the light of Christ.
The season of ADVENT encourages us to look for — and walk in — the light of Jesus! To do so, we must look with anticipation and prepare ourselves to see the light of HOPE.
Like a candle whose wick is low, the glow may appear to be faint. We may even wonder if the next breeze of adversity might snuff it out completely. But it’s there nonetheless. Because it is the light of Christ, we can see HOPE in darkness! This “little light of HOPE” enables us to see the coming of Christ in our own lives now — and in the life to come.
Like children awaking to Christmas morning, Christ comes suddenly, His joy surprising us, His embrace gathering us. As we await His coming in this ADVENT season, it is this “light of HOPE” that gives voice to faith as we affirm: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!
God of Hope: Your light pierces the darkness of my heart and the world. Strengthen me to walk in Your light, casting off the works of darkness. Fill my home and heart with the light of Christ and help me reflect You to a weary world, longing for the thrill of hope. - Amen
Questions for Reflection:
What is something you are looking forward to this Advent season?
How can you remind yourself to embrace God’s Hope this season?
When you feel surrounded by darkness, how can you shine God’s light? Share some ways you remember Hope during Christmas in the comments.
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