Sacred Holidays in a Dark World

My favorite Christmas carol is “O Holy Night.” The words take me away and fill me with such joy. I am reminded that Christmas isn’t just another season or day celebrated without a second thought. The words of the song echo in our hearts this year, “a thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.” 

We live in a weary world in need of hope. There is no lasting hope outside of Jesus. 

We need a thrill of hope in the darkness. We need the sacredness of the season to strengthen us for the new year. We need our hearts stilled in the darkness so that we may fully be able to recognize the great and glorious light that has come. 

The question becomes, how do we keep a season sacred in a year that has been challenging for everyone? How can we reclaim the year and feel the thrill of hope again?

The answer is simple: we must reflect on the very things that make the season sacred. 

Advent is the time leading up to Christmas. It isn’t a biblical principle but a traditional practice to help us focus our hearts on what is essential. This spiritual discipline focuses on the four main things that make this season such a sacred one; hope, joy, love, and peace. 

Advent uses five candles, four for each Sunday of Advent and one for Christmas Eve. Each one represents the Christmas story, but more than that, I believe each one lights our way to redemption. 

When we follow the light, it WILL lead us through the darkness. 

We can hold to the sacredness of the season by keeping our eyes on the light of hope, joy, love, peace, which are all Christ. 

Reflect on Hope:

The first light of Advent, the light of Hope. Our very hope is in the arrival of Christ in the manger, but also the coming of Christ. This beautiful hope that in the weary frailness of this life, there is abundant hope for the future to come. 

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s how are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) 

We need this hope more than ever. When the things around us look weary, we take hope in what Christ has done and will do. The hope is secure in Christ. 

Reflect on Joy:

My word for 2020 was joy. I had great expectations for this word after a particularly rough time with my mental health at the end of 2019. I was sure there was better on the horizon. It took seven months into 2020 to realize that the word had more purpose than I could have imagined. 

Real joy took on a different definition. My circumstances may not match the joy that I feel inside because real joy isn’t dependent on anything but Christ. When the Shepherds heard the announcement of the angel, they were told it will cause great joy for all people.” Christ is our joy. 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8–11)

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) 

Reflect on Peace:

Ah, peace. Is it possible? We will mistake this peace for perfect peace now on earth. This we will never see with our eyes unless we are believers in Christ.

There is no perfect peace without Christ. In a world torn by sin, we will never have world peace until His ultimate return. This isn’t a peace that can’t be attained by good behavior, or even with government laws. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22)

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) 

Reflect on Love:

The greatest of these is love. Love is why He came as a baby in a manger. Love is why He went to the cross to bear our punishment. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

We must cling to this love. This is a love that no one else but God has for us; no one can love us this much. When we reflect on this love, we find hope, joy, and peace, for they are all wrapped up in Christ and His love. 

While this year may have felt challenging and dark, we can hold fast to our great Light, the one who with Him brings peace, hope, joy, and love. We can follow that great light. I challenge you this Advent to seek the light through the pages of your Word, light Advent candles if you have them, pray fervently, and above all follow Christ in the darkness.

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