We have inherited “a season under stress” shaped by darkness and light, dread and hope, judgment and grace, second and first comings, terror and promise, end and beginning.
~J. Neil Alexander “A Sacred Time in Tension” based on writings by Professor Richard Hoefler
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4: 6
The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon. This love reveals sin and overcomes it. It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53).
~from the editors’ introduction in Watch for the Light
Claiming this day as the start of the Christian Advent observance is not really accurate. According to theologian Karl Barth: “what other time or season can or will the Church ever have but that of Advent?.”
We as Christians must continually wait, watch and prepare for Who is to come. That does not end with the birth of our Jesus Christ on Christmas day; it is merely the beginning of His rescue mission for humanity.
As a result, we live in the “already” – Christ has come to earth to redeem His people in a time of fear and brokenness – and here we dwell “in between.” There remains the “not yet” of the future day He returns in glory.
This is a stressful tension and no more so than this year when nothing feels quite regular or routine.
We have always been an impatient people. We don’t like waiting, particularly when we are in the middle of a mess of our own making. What we tend to forget is how much this wait is worth as we already know our salvation is in His hands. We must live out our life in that tension.
So we prepare for this God who became man: this incarnate God of endless might and everlasting Light.
A tender shoot has started up from a root of grace,
as ancient seers imparted from Jesse’s holy race:
It blooms without a blight, blooms in the cold bleak winter,
turning our darkness into light.
This shoot Isaiah taught us, from Jesse’s root should spring;
The Virgin Mary brought us the branch of which we sing;
Our God of endless might gave her this child to save us,
Thus turning darkness into light.