This weekend will mark the first Sunday of Advent. For those of you who are not familiar with Advent traditions, this is a celebration during the four Sundays preceding Christmas. In many churches an Advent ceremony will be marked by the lighting of a candle. This is especially enjoyable for children as anticipation and excitement grows for the celebration of the coming of the Christ Child. Churches that celebrate Advent have different traditions for each Sunday. I would like to offer an Advent Meditation for each of the Advent Weekends leading up to December 25. So, all you Grinches, time to get in the Christmas Spirit!
The 1st Sunday of Advent lights the Prophet Candle. We remember the prophets of old, who demanded to be heard, who dared to speak of a child to come, an unexpected liberator of the people, the vulnerable incarnation of the Holiest of Holies, the very Word of God.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
The worst human life is to exist without hope. It is to assume that the future is bleak and bleaker, and that things will never get better. It is to focus on chronic pain, departed loved ones, and lost opportunities.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, perhaps America’s greatest poet, saw constant warfare in Europe and even in his beloved country during his lifetime. He knew of the Battle of Gettysburg, where over 50,000 casualties were suffered. In 1864, Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells.” He wrote at a time when his beloved wife, Fanny, had died in a tragic house fire a few months earlier. He had recently learned that his beloved son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Union Army, had been seriously wounded in battle. If anyone ever had cause to lose hope, it was this man, yet he proudly proclaimed his faithful in the final stanza:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
When you hear the Christmas bells, don’t think of city sidewalks or a one-horse open sleigh. Think of the God who loved you so much that he sent his son to die for your sins. He is not dead. He is not asleep.
This Sunday, as we ready our hearts for Christmas, may we pray that God will lift our gloom and give us hope. May we pray that the light of God will shine brightly on our paths, a life-giving light, a beacon of hope.
Nebraska Christian College