Section 4: Waiting for the Light
This story didn’t begin with a baby in a manger, and it doesn’t end there either. Light isn’t diminished when we put away the Christmas tree and blow out the last Advent candle. Christmas Day is a celebration of the start of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, His ministry, death, and resurrection, and the new life He invites us to enjoy. His work in driving out darkness and making all things new is both already accomplished on the cross and still ongoing.
Until Jesus Christ returns, we share in His work as people of the light, eagerly awaiting that promised day.
Jesus the Messiah was from the line of David, one of Israel’s most celebrated kings. He was a Hebrew, born in Judea, raised mostly in Nazareth. This was all to fulfill the scriptures, which the God of Israel spoke to His people. The geographic and cultural context of these messianic promises matters in the storyline of the Bible.
And yet, in Matthew 2:1–23, we have the intermingling of the nations with the nation of Israel. The light would dawn (as promised) on the nation of Israel, yes. But also the light would shine in the hearts of the nations. In today’s reading, we witness a hunger in these “wise men from the east” for something (Matthew 2:1). And their searching made them attentive enough to notice a great light—a star—lighting up the night. And it led them to Jesus. Just as it was God’s plan for the Messiah to come through the nation of Israel, it was also always His plan to bring the Messiah to the whole world.
The birth of Jesus was marked by great and terrible things. God revealed His plans in dreams and stars to Jesus’s parents as well as ethnic and religious outsiders (vv.1–12). The baby Jesus’s life was spared as his parents fled to Egypt as refugees, yet every other baby boy of his same age from his hometown was massacred (vv.13–16).
This is the condition of the heart to which Advent most directly speaks. This is the human experience, the possibility of such good and such terrible evil. Even the circumstances of the first coming of Jesus testify to this reality. In the midst of the darkness, the light has and will dawn. God is drawing people to Himself from every corner of the world, and He is forming for Himself a new family in Christ from every nation, culture, and language.
No matter how the powers of evil may try to stop it, the mission of God goes forward, bringing light into darkness. It is right to join Rachel and the mothers in Bethlehem in lament when there is nearly unbearable loss (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18). And it is right to follow Jesus in shining light into all the world as we await His return.
Is there some pain in your own story that has kept you from celebrating the joy of Advent? Jesus is no stranger to suffering. And he does not belittle it in us. Rather, the life of Jesus shows us that Jesus comes to us, wraps Himself up in our suffering, and bears it with us and for us all the way to the cross. Invite Jesus into your past or present pain even now, and ask Him to shine the light of His healing mercy amidst the darkness.