- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: December 01 2020 December 01 2020
Have you ever seen Christmas decorations go up so early? As soon as November 1st hit the calendar, people in my neighborhood were already putting up Christmas lights and trees! I'm always happy to see people decorating for Christmas, but why so early?
Could it be that many people are searching for sense of hope? Could it be that people wearied by our current pandemic are desperately searching for something to look forward to, something hopeful? Many of us, if not all of us, are tired, fatigued and exhausted from the past nine months of uncertainty, isolation, mandates and shutdowns.
Multiple studies show that the rate of depression has tripled during our current pandemic. In late June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that forty percent of adults in the U.S. reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. Recent CDC data reveals that almost one in five teens across the country have seriously considered attempting suicide. And sadly, actual suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19 among high school students.
Children of all ages are struggling mightily with isolation and remote education. Parents across the country are worried that their children are falling behind or failing in school. Small businesses are closing a rapid pace. Forbes Magazine predicted that sixty percent of restaurants nationwide will close permanently. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that one in four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the start of the pandemic. This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the awful 2020 news and statistics. To say that people are searching for any sign of light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, searching desperately for any sign of hope is an understatement!
As we enter the season of Advent, we enter a season filled with hope; hope that is grounded in the One who came and who is coming again! Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” The whole season of Advent has to do with our Lord's coming.
Traditionally, Advent focus on the threefold coming of Christ: (1) Christ's coming in the flesh to be our Savior; (2) Christ's coming again to be our Judge; and (3) Christ's coming to us now enfleshed in His Word and Sacraments.
Advent is a season of sober repentance mixed with holy joy as we prepare to celebrate aright the Nativity of Our Lord. It is a season of preparation, expectation and hope as we await our Lord's coming again to judge the living and the dead. It is a season of prayer and devotion, hearing and meditating on the Word of God and the wonder of His love come down to us and for us in the Christ child.
While the world around us desperately searches for any glimmer of hope with very little on the horizon, the Word of God in the season of Advent directs our hearts and our lives to the only place where true hope is to be found; the One who is born of the Virgin Mary “in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). He is our hope, our life, our joy and our glorious salvation. Even in the darkest seasons of life, His light shines bright as we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Ironically, the Advent season comes during one the darkest times of the year. The days are short and the nights are long. And yet, Advent is a season of light, increasing light that leads us to the light shining in the darkness of Bethlehem in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). As Isaiah once foretold;
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2, 6).
Advent points us beyond all the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, beyond all the Christmas lights and decorations, to the True Light that has come into the world (John 1:9). Advent is a season of hope because it points beyond itself to a time that is coming, to the One who is coming again as we pray and sing:
Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart. 1
As we continue to journey through these gray and later days, through a very dark 2020, take heart and comfort this season in your Savior Jesus who has come to set you free, to give you life, to give you rest, and to give you Advent hope, “coming” hope, in His coming again for you!
Blessed Adventide and Christmas,
- Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 338.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.