The gift of hope is most precious in the bleakest of times. The evergreen leaves in a traditional Advent wreath are meant to symbolize the hope of eternal life that Jesus brought to the darkness of this world. One of the Advent candles also represents hope. So let’s explore this notion of hope as it pertains to this season of Advent, leading into Christmas.
The word “advent” means the arrival of something significant. Based on numerous prophesies as well as important writings in the Hebrew (Old) Testament, the people of God were waiting with great anticipation for Him to send His glorious promised Messiah, who would light up the darkness and eradicate evil. Nobody really knew what to expect exactly, but they were expecting something. This was their only hope.
And this is when the invasion took place.
Of course, it looked nothing like what anyone thought it would be. Many expected a mighty warrior king, a ferocious leader who would conquer their oppressors once and for all, reuniting the people of Israel reminiscent of the glory days under the great King David.
But what they got was a baby.
Although seemingly harmless and innocent, this was an intensely aggressive move by God, to send his Son to be born in a filthy feeding trough in a backwater town far away from the center of civilization in Rome. A most unlikely path to victory.
But Satan himself recognized the danger Jesus’ birth brought to his kingdom of darkness–working through King Herod, he tried desperately to locate and destroy the Christ child before He could grow up and defeat death and sin through His death on the cross and return to life three days later.
Now, as much as I love Christmas songs, there’s a part of me that thinks they should be more…well, fierce. This is not a polite, kind story; it’s a war movie. In Christmas plays, we dress our young ones as cute, adorable angels. But every time in Scripture that an angel appears to a human, the first words out of their mouths are, “Don’t be afraid.” This leads me to believe they must be terrifying to behold, since they seem to scare the hell out of anyone who sees them. God sent his version of the Navy SEALs to escort His Son as they began their invasion of earth to defeat Satan’s kingdom of darkness.
So instead of nice, peaceful Christmas carols, the soundtrack for the Advent season should be majestic and powerful, something you would hear in a movie when the forces of good begin turning the tide of a hopeless battle so they can eventually triumph over the forces of evil.
To give a little more context, things had been going from terrible to worse for the people of God. Israel had long since divided into Israel and Judah, and both kingdoms had been conquered and ceased to exist as sovereign nations. Many of the Hebrew people had been dispersed. Those who remained in the land once known as Israel were oppressed by the brutal Roman Empire. And they hadn’t heard from God for hundreds of years.
Yet they managed to cling to a flickering candle of hope that God would send His Messiah to set all things right. Generation after generation, this didn’t happen, but they never lost that thread of hope, no matter how miniscule and tenuous it had become. They trusted God.
And God came to the rescue by invading earth at Christmas. It may not have been what most people were expecting, but it turns out to be the only path to victory, to salvation. A plan so awesome and incredible that only God could have dreamed it up.
What should we take away from this? Here are some thoughts to summarize:
- Christmas is an invasion story.
- Never give up hoping in God. No matter how bleak, no matter how dark, He can and will always come through.
- Sometimes (often? most of the time?) God rewards our hope in ways that don’t look like He’s answering our prayers. The Hebrews longed for a conquering king, but instead they got a baby. But that baby turned out to be a King like no other, one who could rescue them (and us!) from sin and death for eternity.
- Don’t mess with angels. They are probably much more like Navy SEALs than they are like pudgy little kids in flowing white robes.
- Someone needs to create a Christmas soundtrack that sounds more like majestic and epic invasion music than anything hitting the airwaves right now. I’m just sayin’….
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.I Peter 1:3-6 (NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.Roman 12:9-12 (NIV)