Today’s blog is written by Shawn Stutz. Shawn is a graduate of Generation 16 and currently a participant in Discipleship Faculty Training 4. He is instrumental in the launch of Journey Appalachia, coming fall of 2020. Shawn serves as the Executive Director of FOCUS Ministries, a prison and reentry nonprofit, in East Tennessee. He and his family live in Knoxville.
Advent is a time of preparation. During this season, believers reflect on the arrival of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem so many years ago. However, what often happens is many other holiday preparations crowd out the most significant. We have presents to purchase, parties to attend, and family to both celebrate and survive. The countdown to Christmas is on and Christ might be amiss.
William Blake, in his painting Ancient of Days, depicts God’s radiating light surrounded by darkness. In an act of His will and revelation, deity stretches out His hand causing His light to pierce the darkness. Though the painting depicts images from the book of Daniel, I can’t help but think of John’s words in the prologue of his gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:1–5, 9-14 (ESV)
Jesus, the true life and light who reigned in heaven before time began, was delivered in flesh to humanity. His light pierced the darkness and yet humanity knew him not. For me, this reality clearly illustrates the chaos of Christmas as well.
Throughout Advent, we are invited to meditate on the hope, peace, joy, and love that was wrapped up and delivered to us. But a host of other wrappings and deliveries tend to dominate the season. As believers, I pray we can cut through the clutter to the Christ-child. I trust the hustle and bustle will not outpace our attentiveness to the delivery of The Deliverer. In short, may the church never be accused of seeing Him but not knowing Him.
This Advent season, I invite you to join me in a little experiment. Let us together embrace an intentional practice of sacred meditation and declaration. Here is my thought: I have designated that each theme of Advent (hope, peace, joy, and love) become my banner for a week. When I awake, my prayer will be “Lord, help me to see and be your hope this day.”
Each new week a new theme, each new day a fresher and deeper outlook.
The simplicity of this rhythm allows me to intentionally seek and share the Savior each day. I truly believe this will bring a sacred sense to the season. In the flurry of shopping, parties, and even church events, I want to have eyes to see Christ and honor Him more deeply. I want to capture the hope that darkness cannot overwhelm. I want to receive the joy of eternal salvation, not the whims of temporal happiness. I want to be rooted in peace; patiently confident that Christ’s Kingdom will overcome. I need to be consumed with a loving God that designed my redemption in such a radical and humbling way; taking on flesh to live with man.
I trust that as we are enriched by the light of the world through this experiment, we will become a reflection of the light as well. The overflow of our meditations will serve as an announcement of the Christ-child’s gift of hope, joy, peace, and love. Is it not always our hope that the deep work of the soul produces Kingdom fruit (not a fruitcake) which will bless others.
This Advent season, may we be a people who long for the Light, love the Light, and reflect the Light of the Savior. Amen.