Advent Reflection – Week 3
Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)
Advent is not merely a season of waiting, but one of joyful waiting. In the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we read the account of Zechariah the priest. Zechariah’s time had come – he would enter the temple and burn incense before the daily sacrifice. Due to the large number of priests, this was most likely the only time Zechariah would carry out this duty in his entire life’s ministry. Zechariah was an old man. His life’s work as a priest was to serve God and wait. God’s people lived in the land He gave them. They had the temple. Yet, they were occupied by the Romans, and the situation was far from what God had promised upon their return from exile (Psalm 126). After years of serving and waiting, an angel comes to Zechariah and tells him that his wife (old as well) will give birth to a son who will prepare the way for Israel’s Messiah. This was good news! This was what Zechariah was waiting for; and yet, he was filled with unbelief (1:18-20).
Zechariah’s unbelief was a straight-jacket to his joy. It literally caused him to be mute until his son was born. He waited and waited and waited, and when the fulfillment of his longing arrived, he was filled with skepticism. Unfortunately, this is very familiar for us as well. Many seek satisfaction for their longings only to be followed by a subtle let down, an underlying dissatisfaction. Years and years of this cycle of highs and lows leave us cynical and apathetic to any good news of fulfillment and hope. And yet, the very existence of longing points to the reality that there is a destination for that longing. C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists…. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Zechariah had many longings – a longing for a son, a longing for the Messiah’s rescue of His people, a longing for joy. And those were genuine longings in the sight of God. Yet, the good news of God’s fulfillment of Zechariah’s longings were better than he could ever imagine. And despite his skepticism (a straight-jacket to his joy), God graciously proved him wrong. His purposes still went forward, as He blessed Zechariah, and His people, with the birth of John the Baptist, the prophetic forerunner and pointer to Jesus, the Savior of the world.
During the season of Advent, we can be people of joyful waiting. This is because God has met our longings in the birth of Christ, and will surely fulfill them completely at His return. During this season, and even the whole year, we are able to have joy – not a nebulous warmth, but a God-sized satisfaction in all that God is for us in the gospel of Jesus Christ (e.g. Eph.2:1-10; Rom.8). We can exclaim with Zechariah, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people” (1:68). And, “we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days” (1:74-75).
In this third week of Advent, we remember and declare that joy has dawned in Christ, leading our feet into the way of peace. Shed the jacket of skepticism. There is a fulfillment to your longing – joy found in Christ alone. “But, as it is written, What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”