Advent has arrived and we are looking toward Christmas in a few short weeks. Every year we are reminded that the season of Advent isn’t simply about getting ready for Christmas, it is about setting aside time to prepare our hearts and lives to receive the gift of our Lord. The gift of light that not only dispelled the darkness of the stable that night, but overcomes the darkness of all the ages to come, including ours. Maybe this is especially so this year.

There is so much that has caused us concern, worry, pain and sorrow that it is easy to feel that the ‘darkness’ of life is overwhelming. The temptation is to not look…don’t watch the news…stay off the internet…stay home…stay away from crowds. It is easy to forget the promises of God fulfilled in the birth of Christ. So, perhaps this year, even more than others, we need to be reminded of our hope that is grounded in God. In times of uncertainty, I often turn to Isaiah 40 for reassurance. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term…A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain…All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever…lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear;…“Here is your God!” 10 See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;…11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” Vs. 1-11

Advent comes at a time when daylight is shorter and darkness looms larger, clouds block the sun and we long for brightness of day. We try to hold the fear and anxiety at bay with snappy Christmas songs, bright decorations and buying that perfect gift. But feelings of despair linger just beneath the surface of this joy we try to create. Advent is also the time that we are reminded Emmanuel, God with us, is our true peace. We are not alone to face a world that is full of pain. In this Isaiah passage God isn’t just offering comfort….God commands comfort and tenderness for God’s people. God knows our need and we are told that when we make straight the way for God, all the valleys, hills, and unlevel ground will be made smooth. God is here, God is in the midst of all that we struggle with. The troubles and the difficulties we face and the fear that we experience are no more than withering grass. Our over-whelming to-do lists, our family spats, our shortcomings and our failures are like fading flowers because God’s word and promise stands with us forever. God is our hope and strength. As we journey through Advent let us refrain from hiding and be awakened to recognize the ways that God gathers, carries, and gently leads us through our days, through the valleys, through the darkness and into the light, the light of Jesus the Christ who is and always will be our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. May you know God’s blessings, God’s strength, God’s love and most of all God’s peace this Advent and Christmas Season!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!