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Summary: The sermon speaks of shattering the darkness that sometimes covers our lives, darkness cause by fear, anxiety, disappintment, suffering, sin . . . The hope of Advent’s peace begins at the point we are able to own our darkness and know it intimately, w

Advent I - Peace Isaiah 2:1-5

The season of Advent comes upon us year after year, and most every year we sing and pray and read about darkness and the dawning of light. You know the texts:

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

"Arise! Shine! For your light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

"Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."

"And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High . . .The dayspring from on high has visited us, To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

The Advent message is all about waiting with great anticipation for the coming of Christ among us again . . . the Light that shatters our darkness and brings us Advent’s Big Four: Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love. Peace, of course, comes on the first Advent Sunday, followed by Hope, then Joy (complete with its own pink candle); and finally Love when the long-expected Christ-baby is finally born. Right on cue! Right on time! Choreographed perfectly with our candle lightings and our carefully selected readings and hymns! By the time we light the glorious Christ candle, we should be fully enlightened . . . our darkness dispelled. And it will then be said of us: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who had dwelled in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

So be here on Advent’s fourth Sunday ready to celebrate, because on that day, the preacher will declare the darkness dispelled from your life! And the preacher will call you to recognize the light that has dawned upon you with the glorious bidding to:

"Arise! Shine! For your light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you."

I wish it were that easy. I wish that just declaring it made it so. I wish that with four powerful Advent sermons, scripture readings, hymns and carols, and lighting Advent candles, we could shatter the darkness that covers our lives. But even the most elaborate Advent season, held in magnificent cathedrals to enormous super churches, will not necessarily bathe us with the glorious light of salvation that will end the darkness that surrounds us. After all the Advent festivities are ended and the glorious harmonies of the hymns are silenced, we will still face the fragileness of our relationships, the disappointments of our lives, the turmoil of our existence, and the fears . . . all the fears that life heaps upon us.

Fortunately, today is only one day of Advent - the first day - and we don’t have to get the full measure of glorious salvation in one Advent Sunday. All we have to take with us for this day is peace. Ironically, the first step in reaching a place of peace is comprehending the darkness . . . knowing the darkness intimately, up close and personal.

You are probably thinking that this is not a problem, that you know about darkness all too well, and that life circumstances have been all the “teacher” you could ever need. You KNOW about the reality of walking in darkness. But have you honestly questioned your personal darkness?

In contemplating my own quest for the peace that comes when my darkness is shattered, I discovered that I have asked only one question in my dark times. I have asked only “why?”

“Why has this darkness come upon me?”

Just “Why?”

And that has never been enough . . . not enough to dispel my darkness, and not even enough to make any sense of it. The “whys” were futile questions, unproductive, never satisfying my own longings for peace, never resolving my personal sense of powerlessness, never providing any comfort, never changing anything at all.

The only way the “whys” could ever begin to make a difference is when the “whys” sought truth about my situation, and about my self. And so our questioning must take on some substance, and a genuine desire for increased awareness. Instead of simply “why” we need to ask questions that can open us up to receiving some real answers.

"Why is my darkness so deep? Why does it come back again and again?"

Can you see how answering those two questions might reveal something about myself? Something about my own vulnerabilities and fears? Something about my ability to be self-destructive? Something about my tendency to remain in a place of despondency? Something about why I keep repeating the same actions that harm me? Something about my fears? Something perhaps about my way of creating my own forms of inner conflict? Something that makes my inner peace an elusive dream and never a reality?

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