A GLIMMER IN THE DARK
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse of utter destruction. -Malachi 4:5-6
“Jesus answered, ‘Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.’…Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. -Matthew 17:11-13
Today, Thanksgiving is a bridge to Advent Season. In American life, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been known as “The Holiday Season. Advent has been less appreciated than the two “biggies of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Thanksgiving, an American holiday, leads those who live here into the beginning of Advent, the start of the Church Year in liturgy and worship.
Advent is a four week period of time which leads up to Christmas Day, which precedes Epiphany (the visit of the Magi who came to worship the toddler Jesus), Ash Wednesday and Lent (repentance of our sins), Palm Sunday and Holy Week, Easter Sunday and the joy of resurrection, our Lord’s ascension into heaven, Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church), and consequently Trinity Sunday. These all trace the primary events of the Lord’s life and His church each year again and again until He returns. The celebration of these markers is intended to stir meditation and worship in the mind and heart of the Christian; a remembrance of His redemption accomplished in us and of our becoming like Him (sanctification), which is still a work in process.
Advent is the historical story from Genesis to Bethlehem, the promised seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 being fulfilled in a pregnant Virgin Mary with Jesus’ subsequent birth in a manger in little Bethlehem. Over the years prior to His birth, actually a four-century-long period of time, God’s revelational silence and consequent darkness had reigned in the earth. Then, suddenly the Angel Gabriel stood next to the altar in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as the priest Zechariah took his turn burning incense all alone, as was the custom, in the Holy of Holies. And Gabriel spoke to Zechariah at this moment of light from heaven announcing that a son would be born to him and Elizabeth and that they should name him John.
In 1969 in a faraway place it was an immense life-saving precaution for me to instruct my platoon members in practicing extreme light-discipline in the jungles of Vietnam. Simply lighting a cigarette at night or the mere glow of ashes on the end of the cigarette in such darkness would invite a sniper’s bullet through the brain. Such a small light could actually be seen for miles when unobstructed. A mere ember could pierce the darkness like a laser. This glimmer alone invited death.
In a somewhat similar life and death manner, in another instance, of all people in the world then as well as past, after these 400 years of darkness, a tiny spark of light appeared as a glimmer in the temple of Israel in Jerusalem. Zechariah, a priest from the small town of Ein Karem in the hill country around Jerusalem, listened in fear and trembling to an angel of God, which was a first-time experience for him. God was breaking His four-centuries-long silence through this angel named Gabriel whom He had sent. This light led to life rather than death. This light became ever brighter throughout the whole earth. Neither Satan nor those who support him could ever extinguish the Light of the World.
Elizabeth and Zechariah were old, beyond child-bearing years. Elizabeth had been barren all their married life. Now the last few verses of the prophet Malachi at the end of the Old Testament were about to be fulfilled in the fullness of time. This announcement was accompanied by Zechariah being made mute for nine months because of his initial unbelief. However, the return of his voice upon John the Baptist’s birth brought forth an utterance of the Spirit in Zechariah of truth and prophecy.
It is easy for you to miss the marks in history of God speaking into His world. He is a faithful promise-maker and promise-keeper. He is there, and He is not silent, but many miss what He has to say because they aren’t listening. Watching and waiting are the themes of Advent. They are the themes of Jesus’ life-inducing parables in Matthew 24 and 25, all leading up to the great white-throne of Judgment personally involving all who ever were, or are, or will be.
Simeon and Anna of Luke 2 are excellent models of those early watchers and waiters, such as Job or Abraham. So are many other Old Testament saints, New Testament followers of the Lamb, and the many believers since the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, all who eagerly await His coming again. Celebrating Advent anticipates the birth of Christ and also remembers His promises of a certain return. It is always two-fold. Right now you are in the present-living-task of gathering oil as fuel for your personal lamp to greet the King of Kings at His return. If you do not know what this means exactly, it behooves you to acquire and employ the knowledge of His Advent.
Enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends today, but in that celebration, anticipate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in your near future. What a feast that will be, putting all past Thanksgivings to shame! Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon! Take Him at His word! He does not say this for naught. Watch, wait, prepare, and strive to be always ready. There is nothing more important in your everyday life.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:4-5