By Ryan Diaz
Imagine for a moment that you’re an Israelite in exile, cut off from your home and your kin, seemingly abandoned by your God, and under the oppression of a foreign, pagan power. But then imagine that amid your despair, you begin to recall the words of the prophet Isaiah who promised a Redeemer, who would bring about the end of your exile; “I will make all my mountains into a road, and my highways will be raised up. See, these will come from far away, from the north and from the west, and from the land of Sinim” (Isaiah 49:11–12).
Israel’s experience is humanity’s story in microcosm. Because of sin, all humanity was exiled from home, under the oppression of dark spiritual powers, despairing of our separation from what is good and beautiful and true. This problem is a spiritual reality, as much as it is a physical one. In sin, we’re exiled from the presence of God, our source of life and light. We are at odds with ourselves and those around us.
But we are not without hope. Jesus, upon the announcement of His ministry, unrolled the scroll of Isaiah and declared to those gathered, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me…to preach good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Jesus Christ was Israel’s hope-made flesh, the living embodiment of God’s promise to His people. Jesus’s work on the cross brought humanity’s exile in sin to an end; through Him, we become citizens of that place for which we all so desperately long.
The Advent season is an opportunity to acknowledge our exile’s enduring state and celebrate our Redeemer’s coming. Advent is the long dark night that precedes the day, overwhelming and all-consuming but powerless against those first rays of light. Like the exiles in Babylon, we must recognize the reality of our exile, the specter of sin which threatens to overtake us, and the cycles of brokenness at work in the world around us. We cannot ignore these realities. Instead, Advent invites us to confront these realities with hope. The living hope embodied in our Redeemer-King, the only One who can sympathize with our weakness and knows all too well the harsh sting of death. In Him lies our redemption; through His advent, all will be made whole.
This Advent, we would do well to remember the one “born to set thy people free.” Despite death, hope remains, and our freedom is at hand.