This, the 4th Sunday of Advent, is the last Sunday before Christmas. Each Sunday we have lit a candle in the Advent wreath to symbolize the light that the birth of the Savior has brought to a dark world.
This year, the political realities have turned the world into a frightening place as the shadows of lies, deceit, and misinformation have lengthened. At the time of this writing, a government shutdown continued to loom. In the last few days, the President announced a precipitous withdrawal from our military intervention in Syria, a move that clearly has delighted Vladimir Putin. The Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis has resigned over the Syria decision, the acting Attorney General Whittaker, and the nominated Attorney General Barr, have both said publicly that the Mueller investigation is unfounded and should not continue, and the beat goes on.
When Jesus was born, political upheaval in Palestine ran like rivulets of blood on the defenseless nation of Israel. Since 587 BC, this tiny country in the midst of big international powers had been run over by the political instincts of power and domination. Because we are people of the Bible, we often have a sense of Israel being a much larger actor in Palestinian domination than it was. Then, just as now, the driving motif for the conquests of that region were economic. To control that myopic strip of land, at 270 miles long, no longer than the distance from Washington to New York conquerors had as their objective control over the rich trade routes from India to Europe. Although they owned much desired land, Israel was never a military or economic power. Its power was spiritual not physical. From the time of its foundation as God’s holy nation, its calling was to bring light to a dark and deeply sinful world. Yet, as they yielded to the influence of their political neighbors, they moved further and further from what God had called them to be, a light to the world.
When they refused to be what God called them to be, God moved to plan “B” and sent His Son as had been predicted by Isaiah in Isaiah 49:6, “To be a light to the Gentiles”. But Jesus coming, we now know, had a much larger purpose: to be the light of the world. In Luke 2:35, an elder named Simeon had been waiting in the Temple for the time when the Messiah would come. When Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple 40 days after His birth for dedication, Simeon saw the baby, took him in his arms and said this, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
As during the first Century, the 21st Century has witnessed a deep moral and spiritual darkness. The joy of Christmas is, in spite of all this, Jesus is the light of the world.