I think people are usually startled by the first Sunday in Advent. They come in expecting one of two things: a ceremonial baby shower with a purple backdrop, or Christmas carols and hymns. I’m sure a number of churches turned the first Sunday of Advent yesterday into a living Precious Moments figurine. And I happened to catch a glimpse of a Facebook live stream from a megachurch in my hometown of Heavenly Houston, Texas, and they were – on November 29 – already singing, “Yea, Lord, we greet thee / born this happy morning.”
But if your church really did the first week in Advent justice yesterday, they started out, as one of my favorite writers likes to say, “in the dark.” “Advent always begins in the dark.”
And it’s a dark time right now, isn’t it? Read a newspaper from practically anywhere. People are sick and dying. Political unrest. Violence. In our local news today we learned about a young woman thrown away beside a road, an apparent homicide victim. A car accident claimed the lives of 5, including a small child.
It’s dark here it’s dark everywhere. This is not what people want in their Advent. But it’s what they get.
The time feels right for God to step in. Jesus makes all the difference. But for now, we so often see nothing but the sin and the evil and the darkness.
We gaze into the perpetual darkness and wait. Be ready. Even now, God is at work. All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
I gave up the “Hymns of Hope and Comfort” feature a while back, because pandemic fatigue, but I may continue to bring it back sporadically. This is one of those times, and this is the ultimate hymn of comfort.
One day, the darkness we perceive will vanish from our eyes as the supreme Monarch comes in glory to reign, and the world that once rejected him will see him for who he is. His people will rejoice at the sight of his wounds, the evidence of the gospel itself written on his body.
No more darkness.
THAT is our hope.
So for today, here is one of the greatest hymns ever written, courtesy of Charles Wesley, and to a lesser extent, John Cennick.
Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
Once for our salvation slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
Christ, the Lord, returns to reign.
Ev’ry eye shall now behold him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing
Shall the true Messiah see.
Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To his ransomed worshipers:
With what rapture, with what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen! let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne:
Saviour, take the power and glory;
Claim the kingdoms for thine own:
Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone!
And since I couldn’t decide, here’s one more video,