An Advent video message from Bishop Lowry is available for viewing and sharing at the end of this post.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 CEB)
I love collecting stories that point us to a deeper reality. One true story is a of a submarine – the USS S-4 - that sunk off the coast of Massachusetts decades ago. As the submarine sank to the bottom of the somewhat shallow sea, she took with her the entire crew. As the men clung to life and the oxygen began to give out, rescue ships rushed to the scene of the disaster.
One of the scuba divers swam down through the murky water and placed his ear against the side of the submarine. As he listened for signs of life, he heard a tapping noise. Someone was tapping out a question in Morse Code: “Is...there...any...hope?”
It is a question echoed by many of us. Reality is obvious. We live in a time of darkness. The light of truth is dimmed. The light of health is shadowed. The light of goodwill is covered. The light of the future appears faint to many. Ours is a world desperately awaiting someone who can come and save us – save us from the chaos of COVID-19, the pandemic of partisan politics, the moral madness which seems to have infected us, and yes, save us even from ourselves.
We who call ourselves Christians prepare to come to a season called Advent - the season for preparing for the coming of Christ. The word Advent literally means the “arrival for a noticeable person, thing or event. For Christians, there is a no more noticeable arrival than that of God in the person of a baby. In the Christian lexicon, Advent is the beginning (not the end) of the church year.
This time of the year offers a light, the LIGHT, in our darkness. This is the hope and promise of Advent. This is the good news we proclaim. Let the words of the Prophet Isaiah speak into your lives and be proclaimed among our congregations.
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. (Isaiah 9:2)
We are a people who live in darkness. In Christ we have seen a great light. We are people who live in a land of deep darkness – on us the light of God’s love and grace in Jesus shines.
Together, may we come to the Word of God which is set against our despair; the news of light and hope that is not headlined in the newspaper or tweeted on the phone, but proclaimed in a star. Let Christ speak again not only to your life personally but to our society as a whole.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)
It is this hope beyond hope which we lift up and proclaim as the truth of the gospel in this time darkness. It is this promised hope for our future that we offer all people in the name of the triune God. Let these next four weeks of Advent be our time of deep, joyful preparation and earnest expectation.
My friends, it has been rightly said that “hope is a virtue.” That means that it’s not just a feeling, nor is it simple optimism. As the late priest and scholar Richard John Neuhaus put it, “Optimism is simply a matter of optics, of seeing what we want to see and not seeing what we don’t want to see. Hope is only hope when it is hope with eyes wide open to all that challenges hope.”
How are we instructed to enter this season of preparation for Christmas? With joy and rejoicing, for
“… a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.” Isaiah 9: 6-7
The light shines in our darkness! Come to the light!