By Cindy Koch –
There is a light that changes everything. When it is dark and cold, just a little spark ignites hope. Instead of a black and formidable reality, there is comfort seen on the horizon, because this little glow of light is the beginning of a warm, bright fire.
It is no wonder a family gathers around the hearth of the home, where the gentle firelight casts its heat on everything around it. The light shines on everything, and the family draws close out of the cold, dark shadows. Every object in the room glistens with the orange reflection from the fireplace. A joyful light glows in the middle of a world of sadness and pain, and all is calm and bright.
The third Sunday in Advent is traditionally Gaudete Sunday, derived from the Latin word for “rejoice”. Often rose colored in the Advent wreath, this candle that blazes is one of joy, reminding us of how the light changes everything. During the weeks leading up to this one, we have been prayerfully considering our shortcomings, our shame, our paths that have not been straight, our need for a Savior to come. But today we celebrate the joyful conclusion that illumines everything we see.
We turn to the end of God’s story for His people, the book of Revelation. Often feared and misunderstood, the Revelation of St. John describes amazing visions of the past present and future. Apocalyptic literature such as this is not read linearly like a storybook, but rather in cycles. Revelation tells the same joyful story over and over with images and pictures. It is the story of our sure comfort, an inviting light that shimmers in the middle of our confused and scary reality.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)
This is the already finished reality of a victory won by Jesus Christ. There is nothing to add, nothing more to do. The Lamb is victorious; God is with his people, returned to the perfect beauty created for them. All those who believe have been marked with His Name, and they will reign forever and ever! And it was fulfilled when God sent his son to become flesh on the earth.
But we live in such a dark world that does not believe the beauty of this story. The shepherds were confused and afraid by what heavenly angles told them about an ordinary baby. The Magi were confounded to find an infant king that they never would have expected. Christians for centuries have struggled in wait for the promises of God to be made visible. Even today, during Advent, we don’t plainly see the finished reality that St. Paul speaks in the visions of Revelation. But we hear this is the true reality, and it changes everything.
Like a warm firelight, our arrived Savior enlightens everything. Blazing boldly in the stone-cold gloom, God’s promises to us change how we see every little discouragement. We look forward to our bright, sure future. We trust in the warmth that reigns over death and the devil, and our dismal world doesn’t seem so dark. We gather around the joyful flame of salvation and rejoice with all of God’s Saints.
May the brightness of your wonderful promises, O God, illumine our weary and discouraged world. May we, like the shepherds and the Magi, REJOICE in the anticipation of all the good things You would have us strive for and receive.