Did you know that Advent starts Sunday? This is good news in the midst of all the bad news.
It’s been a rough few weeks. It seems virtually all of the news is bad. Whether it’s ISIS, Boko Haram, the refugee crisis, or, here at home, the troubling trends in American culture, depression, if not outright despair, seems like a reasonable response.
Thankfully, God has provided a remedy for this temptation, and it’s as close as your nearest Church calendar. I’m speaking of Advent, which begins this Sunday.
Relatively few Americans, including many Christians, understand what Advent is really about. Here’s a hint, it’s more than just a countdown to Christmas.
For nearly two millennia, Advent has been the season in which Christians reflect on the bookends of God’s redemptive acts in Christ: His Incarnation and His coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
These bookends are arguably best described in the hymns associated with Advent. They express the human longing for God to set everything aright, to wipe every tear from our eyes.
Take the hymn “Creator of the Stars of Night.” It was written, probably in England, sometime between 600 and 800 A.D., in the midst of what is commonly known as the “Dark Ages.” Life was unimaginably hard for those living back then: war was endemic, as was destitution, disease, and hunger.
This reality is reflected in the hymn’s opening stanza: “Creator of the stars of night, Thy people’s everlasting light, Jesu, Redeemer, save us all, and hear Thy servants when they call.”
But it doesn’t stop there. The hymn then recalls the first bookend of God’s great redemptive act: “Thou, grieving that the ancient curse should doom to death a universe, hast found the medicine, full of grace, to save and heal a ruined race.”
It then looks forward to the second bookend: “O Thou whose coming is with dread, to judge and doom the quick and dead, preserve us, while we dwell below, from every insult of the foe.”
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