Happy Advent, friends.
Let's just sit in the hope of that reality for a minute.
I am FILLED after a weekend of fellowshipping and encountering God. My hope is that this can be an overflow from my heart to refresh your heart and reorient your perspective on the season.
Coming into this season, I have been seeing and sitting in a lot of darkness. There is so much darkness vying for our attention. I wasn't sure how Advent, which is so poignant and profound and simple in its beauty and relevancy, would resonate with me this year. And it doesn't always have to resonate with us and captivate us each year. That's okay, and I was prepared to be okay with it. "Christmas feelings," as my husband calls them, are never my goal. If it's not authentic, I don't want it.
Today is the first day of Advent and today God recaptured my heart and soul in such unexpected ways! Today has been a pure gift to me.
Christmas falls in the darkest time of the year. The shortest day of the year is December 21st. After this day, the light grows. The days gradually become a little longer. In this darkness, it is no coincidence that we turn our hearts to the Advent, the coming into the world, of Light itself.
"Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace." - Luke 1:78-79 NLT
These moving, prophetic words of Zechariah, before the birth of Jesus, speak hope into a dark world. There was much darkness in the time of Jesus' life. Oppression by a ruling, foreign government, displaced people, the slaughter of babies. . . Did it even make sense to hope?
There is much darkness surrounding us today and, when we are on our devices, we're bombarded by new darkness every 3-5 seconds. Does it even make sense to hope? What is there to hope in?
As a follower of Jesus, a walker of the Way, my only hope is found in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in who God the Father is, and in who God says I am. The world truly has no hope to offer. The hopelessness we see today is not just a circumstantial hopelessness, as in, "there's no hope for the future," or "there's no hope he's going to pull through." The hopelessness of this world is a lack of anything at all to hope in. Lost. Completely at sea.
Hopefulness = being found. Hope means we have a constant anchor to put our hope in that's not circumstantial. It hovers above the darkness, it is with us, intimately, through every storm.
This is not about a future hope in heaven, though that is something that every cell of my body is crying out for! Hope in Jesus is for now, today. I often get overwhelmed by the darkness in the world. My heart cries for the displaced people in war-torn countries, for the refugees and immigrants just trying to find a place to land who have left everything called "home" behind forever. It can and often does feel hopeless.
"Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 'I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." - John 8:12 NLT
We don't have to walk in darkness, however, because we have the Light that leads to life! We walk around every day as though we don't believe this, as though it's not true. As though Jesus hasn't already come into the world, lived, died, and resurrected for us, to gain intimacy with us, and to conquer the darkness in the world.
Friends, if we were to live like we truly believe what we say we believe, we would be unstoppable beacons of light and hope in the world. We have the Spirit of God within us. We're just walking around with the power and strength, the glory and light of the Spirit within us! In God, there is no darkness at all. Shadows exist because something is obstructing light. But we are filled with light. Don't let anything obstruct the light within you. This season, and in the coming year, let's partner with light and hope. Let's not get caught partnering with despair.
How do we do this in a way that is sensitive to people walking in darkness? Jesus set the perfect example of this for us. He was light and life, yet He spent His days walking, teaching, healing, laughing, and crying among people who carried loads of darkness on their shoulder. And He did this perfectly, without giving in to the darkness. He did not let the darkness dim His light, but instead, the darkness could not withstand His brilliance. Jesus met people where they were. He empathized (and still does). He healed (and still does). He wept with His friends (and still does). But Jesus beckoned people into the light, He called everyone He met into something better. He did not leave them in their despair. Jesus was unyielding in His hope.
We were created with the same capabilities to show compassion, empathy, love, and healing. To be unyielding in hope. The darkness is real and it is dark, but the light is also real. It's the most real thing. I would argue, it's the only real thing. Let us carry light into the darkness, not partner with despair and hopelessness. Let's remind ourselves daily what is real and true - H O P E.