Let’s begin by reading Luke 2:22-38:
 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord  (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,  he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation
 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,  and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
1. What does “advent” mean?
Advent means “coming.”
2. What have Christians through the centuries traditionally reflected on in the Advent season?
Advent is the time of year that Christians have traditionally reflected on the two comings of Jesus Christ: His first coming to the earth and His future second coming to the earth.
3. What were the common themes that were once highlighted in the season of Advent?
The common themes once highlighted in Advent were Darkness, Death, Exile, Longing. It was a season of lament.
Sin is often pictured as darkness in the Bible. Sin has brought death into the world in a spiritual and physical sense. Sin has caused us to live in exile away from God. This creates a longing in all of mankind, which apart from Jesus we are blinded from seeing and understanding.
The darkness of sin and the death and exile it brings especially creates longing in God’s people. Our eyes have been opened to see the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have tasted sin’s destruction in our own lives and have seen it in the world around us. We long for the day that Jesus will return and make all things new. That will be the day when there is no longer sin, darkness, death, or exile. We will be at home with God forever in the new heavens and the new earth.
This is not a hopeless study. All along the way we will see that Jesus is the light of the world who overcomes the darkness of sin (John 1:5, 8:12; 1 John 1:5). Jesus is the life who has conquered death (Hebrews 2:14). In Christ, we will safely be brought home to live with God forever as His people in the new heavens and earth (Revelation 21:1-8). Christ is the satisfaction of all our true longing (Psalm 63; Revelation 21:6).
4. Who were the two characters that we looked at last week that serve as examples of the spirit of Advent?
Simeon and Anna in Luke 2 – Expectant watching for the Consolation of Israel and the Redemption of Jerusalem.
DARKNESS, DEATH, LIFE, LIGHT
This week we will zoom in on the aspects of darkness and death in the Advent season, and we will contrast these things with Jesus who is Light and Life.
Let’s go again to the beginning in Genesis 1:1-3:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Out of the chaos of darkness God created light. Out of nothing, God created everything. All that He made was good. He brought order out of chaos.
God created man in His image to rule over the creation under His Lordship. Mankind rebelled against God’s rule and became his own authority. Mankind went his own way. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, brought darkness and chaos into the good creation through their rebellion. They brought sin into the world in their rebellion. Sin is darkness. It is often pictured as such in the Bible.
God is holy. He is set apart as the only God and sinless in every way. He is perfect in His being, and He is said to be light in the Bible.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
John goes on to say that walking in darkness (sin) is not fellowship with God who is light:
1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
The people of Israel were experiencing this darkness in many forms at the time of Jesus’ first coming. The evil of the Roman Empire. The evil of the murderous Herod. The darkness of dead legalism. The darkness of the skeptics. The darkness that blinded the Jewish people of their King’s coming. The faithful like Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:22-38 longed for the light to come and penetrate the darkness.
It takes little observation with a biblical worldview to see that the world is currently walking in darkness and trapped in that darkness. Satan is the god of this world who has blinded the world “from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:2). His kingdom is called the Domain of Darkness in Colossians 1:13. We see the effects of this darkness all around us. The world is trapped in the clutches of the evil one. The world is in darkness, and all who remain trapped in the domain of darkness will tragically be cast into outer darkness in the lake of fire, forever (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; Revelation 20:14-15).
The sense of darkness in the world and, sadly, in ourselves causes us to long for all things to be made new. Like Simeon and Anna, we long for the consolation of Israel to come (Luke 2:25, 38). We and the creation long for the final redemption (Romans 8:23). We long for darkness to be removed, for sin to be destroyed (Revelation 21:1-8).
The darkness of sin has also brought death into the world. In a spiritual sense, each person is born dead in sins and alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 2:1, 4:18). We are tormented with this reality by physical death. There is a day appointed for each person to die, and after death comes the judgement (Hebrews 9:27).
Are we not painfully reminded of the effects of sin every time one of our loved ones die? Wasn’t our Lord Christ moved with anger and grief at the death of Lazarus? (John 11:33-35). Death is an inescapable reminder that the world is not right; we are not right.
God told our first parents, Adam and Eve, that disobedience would bring death, and it has happened just as God said it would (Genesis 2:16-17). What God said to Adam is true of us all – we are dust, and we will return to the dust (Genesis 3:19).
Simeon and Anna waited for the first coming of Jesus. We read their account in Luke 2:22-38. We are told Anna was incredibly old. We are not explicitly told Simeon was old, but one gathers that from his own words about death in Luke 2:29, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart…” They were waiting for God to bring salvation to His people. They were waiting for light to come. They were waiting for life. All around them was darkness and death, and they longed for redemption to come. They waited for a long time.
Death was a daily reality for Simeon and Anna, but their salvation and our salvation arrived. After Jesus’ birth, in keeping with the Law, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the Temple to set Him apart to the Lord. The Spirit of God had moved Simeon to come into the Temple. Then Simeon saw the Satisfaction of his longing. You see, Simeon did not just say, “you are letting your servant depart…” When he saw Jesus he said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29). Simeon referred to Jesus as more than the Giver of Salvation. Simeon said that Jesus is the Lord’s salvation.
Simeon went on to say that this child, the Lord Jesus, had been prepared by God “in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Here is the One who will do away with darkness. The Light has come into the world, and the darkness has not overcome Him (John 1:5). The Lord Jesus, who is God, is the light of the world. All who follow Jesus “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). The Father, through the work of Jesus Christ, has transferred us from the domain of darkness and carried us away into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13-14). In Jesus we have been set free from the domain of darkness, having been forgiven of our sins through His death and rising again in our place. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Jesus is the eternal life who was with the Father (1 John 1:2). Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). Jesus has come that we may have abundant life, eternal life (John 10:10). In Jesus is life, which is the light of men (John 1:4). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
As we reflect in sorrow over the darkness and death of this world, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Instead, our grief is a longing for our confidence. We look back to the cross of Jesus Christ, and we rejoice that death has been destroyed in the death of Jesus. We look to the Light of the world and know that we have passed from darkness to light, from death to life. We also look ahead to the time described in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
We look forward to the time when there will be no night. Revelation 21:23-25 says,
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
Forever we will be with God and the Lamb. Forever we will be free from danger, darkness, and death.
When He comes again, it will be the appearing of His glory (Titus 2:13). In that light darkness will scatter, forever. Sin will be done away. “…death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
It is important as we reflect for me to ask this question: Do you know the Light of the World? Have you been carried out of the Domain of Darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son? Can you look back to the cross of Jesus Christ and say, “Yes! My sins are forgiven in His death!”
Hebrews 9:27-28 says,
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 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.
Can you look ahead with confidence that when He comes it will be for your salvation and not your judgement? Jesus is coming again, and every person will stand before Him in judgement. Have you been declared right with God through faith in Jesus?
Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has said He is coming soon, and we echo the Apostle John: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).