Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Light of the World: Advent, Week 1

[Note: all Scriptures are quoted from The Message unless otherwise stated.]

A purple candle, known The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope is lit in the Advent wreath. Traditionally, the Scripture passage for the first week of Advent is Isaiah 9: 2-17. Verse 2 begins with, “The people who walked in darkness….”  The Scriptures use images of light and darkness to distinguish between good and sin/evil; however, darkness can also refer to confusion, mental anguish or spiritual blindness. Therefore, Isaiah’s prophecy is a strong message of what God’s people had experienced and what they could expect to happen (i.e., the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah). The Israelites had been walking (i.e., living) in hopeless darkness, but they would see a great light and be filled with new hope.

Before time began there was darkness. Then God spoke into the darkness, created light, and affirmed that it was good (see Genesis 1: 1-5). Yet, with The Fall from grace of Adam and Eve, humanity was thrown into darkness. Throughout history, this permeating darkness has infiltrated and devastated the health—mentally, physically, and spiritually—of individuals and nations. This journey of shadows and gloom can be traced down through the ages as people have selfishly used the gift of freewill to wreak havoc in their environments and in the lives and environments of others. Ecclesiastes emphasizes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecc. 1:9, New International Version). This certainly has been true of the darkness that has cloaked the human race. It’s not new; it has been evidenced and experienced since the dawn of time. This darkness is not the root of the problem—it’s the symptom or the result of what happens when we choose to follow our own path instead of God’s ways. The Exodus 20: 4-6 it states that God will “punish the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me.”  Based on their own morals, parents model “acceptable” behaviours for their children, and leaders do the same thing for their followers. Unfortunately, when people walk (live) in darkness they model the mindsets and actions of those who are also misled and who are stumbling through life without clarity or direction—even worse they pull others into their dark existence.
 “The people walking in darkness…” We certainly can identify with these words that Isaiah spoke so long ago, because we, too, have experienced how difficult, discouraging, and even depressing it is when must deal with dark times in our own lives. This difficulty is sometimes expressed through the use of the idiom, “I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” which means that we may finally be nearing the end of a hard and demanding set of circumstances or task.
The people walking in inky darkness did not continue to stumble in it, because, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” (Isa. 9:2). If you have ever experienced a blackout, a loss of electricity, then you understand the value in having candles or flashlights ready for such emergencies. In December of 2005 we experienced a major ice storm, with evening temperatures below freezing, and a blackout that lasted for 7 days and 6 nights. Determining ways to provide for my family’s essentials was stressful; and we were thankful for the help of friends, but the novelty of ‘adventures’ soon wore thin. And just when we thought we couldn’t last another day, the lights and heat came back on. What an incredible transformation in our mood and sense of well-being! Light can provide warmth, and it illuminates and dispels darkness and despair, replacing it with hope. Light can also reveal danger. The amazing reality is that since the dawn of time the Light of the World has been stepping into the darkness in our lives to show us the way out. Psalm 119: 105 notes, “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” Yes, we reaffirm, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” (Isa. 9:2).” May God continue to show us how to respond to that Light, to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Suggested Daily Scripture Readings:
These recorded prophecies predicted the Messiah’s coming hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Sunday, Nov. 29/15: The People Walking in Darkness See a Great Light--Isaiah 9: 1-2
Monday, Nov. 30/15:  The Sign of Immanuel (Immanuel means “God with Us”)—Isaiah 7:10-15
Tuesday, Dec. 1/15:  Comfort for God’s People—Isaiah 40:1-5
Wednesday, Dec. 2/15:  The Messiah’s Birthplace—Micah 5:2
Thursday, Dec. 3/15: Jesus the Messiah’s Genealogy: Matthew 1: 1-17 
Friday, Dec4/15 : Joseph is Visited by an Angel-- Matthew 1:18-25 
Saturday, Dec5/15: God’s Promise of Hope—Jeremiah 29:11

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk

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