“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2, NKJV)
When I reflect upon my journey to Christ, I realize that it truly did begin with the holiday season. December was always fun for me as a young child growing up in an agnostic home. There was the vacation from school, the fancy arrays of colored lights and decorations adorning the neighborhoods and businesses of Seattle, the sweet treats, the presents, and often a getaway to sunny Phoenix to visit my grandparents. And of course, there was the music.
I sang in the Northwest Boychoir for four years. The Christmas season was the busiest time of year, but also the most exciting. We had far more performances in December than other months, and a broad range of hymns, carols and secular songs that I always enjoyed. My first distinct accomplishment took place during this time. I was never a featured soloist in the choir, but always wanted to stand out in some way. Following a creative inspiration, I produced by own three-part harmony arrangement of O Little Town of Bethlehem, showed it to the director, and we actually performed it once. I also jumped at the opportunity to read Scripture for several Lessons & Carols concerts. I still smile and laugh when I watch the video of my 10-year old self reading from Isaiah of the promise of God’s Son and trying to sound as emphatic as possible. Although I did not grasp the deeper meaning at the time, I was struck by the peace, joy, and sense of purpose everyone at these concerts seemed to share, and how I shared it along with them. If so many people believed this was God’s work… maybe it actually was. I would say this was when I first experienced hope and a new beginning. Thereafter, I found myself watching for it again.
These are the themes of Advent. We keep watch for the Christ, the promised Son of God. In doing so, we must also watch the areas in our lives where God is most forcefully present and at work, as well as those where He is notably absent. We look for new opportunities to embrace the roles He gives us and share the gospel of Christ with others, all the while being aware of our shortcomings and relying on Him to carry us through our difficulties. We anticipate the hope of Christ, and the ways He can light the dark areas of our lives, and we look to spread this hope. Hope can be experienced anew every season, as we are always lacking in some way. And we get to celebrate the new beginning Christ signified for God’s people when He was born, as well as one we can experience when we embrace Him more fully.
While I still enjoy the free time, food and fellowship of this season, as a believer, I can now truly experience the love of Christ and the profound impact He has had on my life. And in that I can rejoice and celebrate. Though there is a lot of change and uncertainties hanging in my life right now, there is ever present hope because of Christ. I will be watchful for new paths He reveals, and be more wary of where I might be overlooking Him – I know there are still many places where I do.
A new beginning awaits with the fresh experience of Advent this year. I pray that everyone can experience it for themselves. As every L&C lesson ended… thanks be to God.
Daniel can be reached via email here.