Advent is my favourite season in the Church calendar. It is a new start, the beginning of the Church Year. In Advent we prepare for Christmas, we prepare ourselves for Christ.
The great Biblical text of Advent is Isaiah chapter 40 in the Old Testament. It reminds us that Advent is about hope and promise and fulfilment. During the exile to Babylon in the eighth century BC, an anonymous prophet received a word from God. That word was, “Comfort, comfort my people.”
At the bleakest and most hopeless time in their history, when God seemed very far away, when the people felt abandoned they were given a message of hope. They would leave exile, return home, and God himself would lead them; God himself would be their saviour.
Against all expectation, the people did leave Babylon, they did return home, but they still felt as if God was distant, they still felt abandoned. Empire after cruel empire rose to power and God’s people were subject to their not-so gentle rule.
During the years after the exile the people held onto the hope and promise that God would come to his people as their Saviour. This hope sustained them. Finally, after centuries of longing and hoping and praying, there came the story of a child born in Bethlehem who would be Emmanuel - God with us. He wasn’t a messenger from God, He wasn’t a prophet or holy man. In this child God has come to our world in our flesh and blood, in our weakness and mortality.
The promise and the hope of Advent, fulfilled at Christmas, fulfilled in Christ, is that God is for us and God is with us. We are not abandoned; God is our Saviour - God is the saviour of the world.
The God who meets us in Jesus is unlike any other idea or dream of divinity. He comes to us in weakness and in mercy; He comes in compassion. His love will prove stronger than our brokenness, stronger than death. In this child hope breaks into our world for all people and for all time.
This Advent the words of that prophet speak to us, his words are comfort to us. In the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas God draws close to our world and close to us. The child whose birth we anticipate in Advent assures us that, in a bleak and hopeless world we are not alone, that God has not abandoned us or our world. In Jesus God comes to us and to our world, not to judge or threaten or condemn but to save us.
In Jesus God’s love is made flesh and bone. In Jesus the God of love reaches out, not just to all; not just to the world, but to us, to each one of us. In the one whose birth we look forward to in Advent, we know that we are not abandoned, rather we are loved more than we will ever fully understand. And, as we follow the story of the child who was born in the stable of Bethlehem, we will discover that His love is the most powerful force in all of creation.
That is why, at Advent, we sing my favourite hymn, “O come, o come Emmanuel!”
May the God of love bless you this Advent and Christmas.
O come, O come, Emmanuel - (Piano/Cello) - The Piano Guys - Instrumental