The clocks have gone back and the evenings are drawing in. I quite like the thought of a fire in the hearth on a dark winter evening but I much prefer the thought of the sunshine returning in Spring – so if I appear a bit gloomy until then, you’ll know why! I think this is why a verse in the last chapter of the Old Testament caught my eye:
‘But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.’
It’s a verse that points us straight to Jesus. When John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, was speaking about the birth of Jesus and John, he said “the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death”. The assumption is that we live in a world veiled in shadow – a shadow much deeper than the darkness of winter months. It is the shadow of death and all of death’s dark cousins: sin, sickness, Satan and sorrow. There is only one thing that can banish darkness and that is light. And a deep darkness needs a very bright light, which is why the coming of Jesus is described as ‘the rising sun’- the brightest of all lights.
Jesus’ life on earth was full of this light which brought ‘healing in its wings’ – security where there was danger, health where there was sickness, freedom where there was bondage and joy where there was gloom. Yet Jesus’ first coming also prepares us for His second coming.
His first coming was just a glimpse of what His second coming will accomplish: the banishing of every form of darkness from the world.
His first coming – in His death and resurrection – is what makes it possible for us to enjoy His second coming, rather than being banished ourselves as part of the problem.
And therefore His first coming is an invitation to each of us to come out of the darkness, ‘to revere His name’ and to fix our hope on that bright future dawn.
These are the things we traditionally think about in Advent. I realise that it’s only November and so I’m a bit premature – but if I leave it until December it will be too late for you to get hold of the resource I’m about to mention. Last year I read Tim Chester’s book ‘The One True Light’ throughout Advent in the run-up to Christmas. We often complain that this time of year is too busy and that we don’t have time to think properly about what it means. I think this book really helps with that problem – it is a series of short readings based on the first chapter of John’s Gospel, one reading for each day of December. So if you get it now, you’ll be ready to go and in the busyness of the season you’ll have something to keep your heart fixed on what really matters. We’ll make sure some copies are available at church. I thoroughly recommend it.
With love in Christ,