Each year the inception of the Advent season draws me into a mode of reflection. How has the Lord been at work in my own life, in the lives of friends and family members and even in our nation? This year as I thought about the divisiveness in our country, my spirit has been hungering for a deeper sense of hope. Though a bit unusual, I have been drawn to the “advent story” in the book of John – John 1:1-5. John, the theologian, cast Jesus as the Word beyond time, as He was in the beginning, and then brings Him into time as the Light. Jesus the Light of the world. This affirms the sovereignty of God and gives me a glimmer of hope. My hope lies in verse 5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
There are those dark spaces in each of our lives and certainly in our nation that if we are not careful can cast a shadow on our hope, our joy, our peace and even our love during this season of Advent. But less we lose hope, we must remember that the Advent season at the time of Jesus’ birth was filled with uncertainty and darkness also. That period between the Old and New Testament often described as 400 silent years in which there was no word from the Lord through the prophets; the Roman empire had expanded through most of the region; King Herod, who ruled with a heavy hand, was in power; and the promised Messiah, King of the Jews was nowhere in sight. Dark days indeed! But Zechariah prophesized in Luke 2:78, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And then the Good News comes that the Savior is born. Jesus the Light enters the world.
I thought about the light and The Light as I stood in the sanctuary of one of our ABC Churches this weekend to celebrate their 190th Anniversary. The sanctuary had the original stained glass windows. Stained glass windows look like every other window in the dark. It is only in the reflection of the sun’s rays on the window that we see the beautiful color and the demarcations of lead that form the intricate designs and images. It is this “poor man’s bible,” as stained glass windows were called, that illumined the story of Jesus for those who were not able to read in the early days of some of our churches. I thanked God for the light at that moment because there are still those in that community and many around the world who do not have access to an education and are still unable to read. I thanked God for the Light that came into our world over 2000 years ago. I thanked God for Jesus in that moment.
My prayer is that the same light that reflects off those exquisite stained glass windows, be the same light that penetrates our hearts during this Advent season. My prayer is that our light will so shine that those who need to learn about the love of Christ and receive salvation will be drawn to the Light within us. My prayer is for those who will come to Christ to no longer have to live with the darkness inside of themselves.
Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” I’m thankful that I can still see the light amidst the darkness in our world. I’m grateful that I can still live in hope, because the darkness shall never overcome the light.
Associate General Secretary for Missional Initiatives and Partnerships
American Baptist Churches USA