Years ago I had an opportunity to accompany a number of clergy to Holland, then on to Sweden. It was early December and the cold of Holland and Sweden reminded me of Canada. Like Canada, darkness falls early in the late afternoon. There seemed to be some excitement around this early way to early darkness. The excitement in most homes was a candle, welcomed on almost every window sill, turning darkness into light. The close proximity of homes and the tiny yards made the houses even closer, like the sidewalks we were walking on. It was a rare feast for the eyes! Excitement about windows framed in light had become a tradition for generations. While tradition isn’t in itself a bad thing, it can lead us to accepted norms like taking communion week after week; like speaking out loud the creeds of our faith month after month. Like putting a candle or light in the window at Christmas without calling to remembrance its meaning and significance.
Advent in the Liturgical calendar is celebrated on the four Sundays before Christmas. In Latin, Advent means coming. To prepare for this coming, we remember it by the sign of light – candles – lights on a tree – lights on buildings and houses. It is one of the traditions of the festive season! Potentially forgotten in our distant memories is that the entire world is incased in the darkness of sin. I know sin isn’t the topic of Christmas. Peace, joy, faith and love are. But, we must remember sin to understand the full weight of Advent. God, the herald of his Son through the prophets of old, mentions the coming of redemption numerous times. This coming of the Messiah was the promise of our redemption. We must never live too far away from the theology of redemption; it keeps our theological boots on the ground! Paul expresses it better than anyone in the New Testament:
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin” (Col.1:13-14).
This is the proclamation of advent – we have been rescued from the tyranny of sin, which is, metaphorically, darkness. Light is the enemy of darkness. Light isn’t preached as a passive substance, but that of something that overcomes darkness by the mighty act of redemption. So bring out those candles and lights and celebrate the fullness of God found in his beloved Son!
Peace in Christ,