Advent is the season of goodwill, peace to all men. The flooding of light to the world, indeed the Light of the World come. Advent is hope and joy and anticipation. It is confidence and celebration for our King has Come.
So, bear with me and hear me out when I change the scene. When I repaint the Christmas card scenes and change the word hope for one of despair, the flooding of light, for a picture of utter consuming darkness….
Bear with me when I ask you….
Have you ever been in a situation that left you despairing?
Chaotic conflict spilling out in criticism.
Hearts hardening and retreating from one another.
All endeavour and resolve to count the cost of calm and reconciliation, to grit the teeth and pursue forgiveness, a long lost pipedream. A fool’s endeavour.
A despairing situation that leave hardened hearts battling for their own survival, gritting teeth in resolve of self will only to sink into a storm of despair.
Bear with me for shattering the joy and hope and light of Advent.
The light of the One who Came. The Light of the world who came to win hope peace and reconciliation for the world. For the world steeped to its very core in utter darkness. The Light of the World who came into despair. The Light of the World who came towards the hopeless hardened hearts of his children.
At Christmas, we boldly proclaim peace, light, joy, reconciliation between men because at Christmas, we behold God become man come for man in all his despair and all the chaotic conflict. At Christmas, Christ came.
The light of the World has come because the world of darkness was in utter despair.
He came. Fully God and fully man to redeem, restore, flood darkened hearts with light, fill our lives with purpose and call us to lives of holiness for God our Father. So what do we do when we find ourselves in those same storm filled, despairing situations? We allow the star in the sky to direct our hearts and behold in awe and wonder the baby in the manger, to come and behold Christ Incarnate and allow the gift of God himself to settle our hearts and speak to our despair.
Away despair! my gracious Lord doth heare
Though winds and waves assault my keel,
He doth preserve it: he doth steer
Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel,
Storms are the triumph of his art
……. Despair away
George Herbert, ‘The Bag’
What we could not do for ourselves, God had to come and do for us as God made man. Perfect man.
He battled against every temptation yet without sin. He faced every rejection, criticism, mocking, raised eyebrow and lashing. He knew what it means to feel weary, to have to go to his Heavenly Father in prayerful reliance to persevere in His will, to need the comfort of the Father because friends have left, slept, fled.
There is no situation Christ does not share with you.
The humanity of Christ Incarnate strips away all our protests that we are not understood that we are alone that we are isolated in the battle. He lived the life of man in the midst of a twisted and crooked generation. In human flesh, he battled every day against sin, evil, the devil and he conquered death and darkness in that body, flooding our hearts with light and allowing us to come joyful and triumphant to behold Him and adore Him who battles still with and for us in our fight against sin.
There is no situation Christ does not share with you.
No despair, no physical discomfort, family pain, relationship agony, no consequence and agony born by the sin of others impacting your life right now, this day, no grief over death that Christ does not sympathize with. He knows the grief and despair of your heart, your frustration in your marriage, your pain in your loss, your agony over unfulfilled desires. The longing you have for others to understand you better. The boat is reeling, its rocking, it feels like everything is about to be capsized into the storm.
Yet Christ is not only with you in the boat, knowing and sharing in your suffering.
He doth preserve. He doth steer.
He is not only God with us, but he is Christ our forerunner, our champion, who goes before us, who has ascended and still works for us in the presence of the Father, speaking our name to the Father, advocating for us and praying for us through the storms.
Though the winds and waves unsteady us to the point of collapse, he hears, he knows, he steers and we can trust that he is working more than we can abundantly ask or imagine through this suffering storm.
Christ came down, assuming human flesh that we might have a great high priest who knows our every weakness, yet without sin, but he did so without diluting, leaving, or lessening any of his divine nature. The eternal Son of God became Christ incarnate, God with us as fully God and fully man.
In suffering in storms, God is working His victorious purposes in you against darkness, sin , suffering. The Creator of the world, the One for whom and by whom all things exist, has full control over every sphere of this world, over every storm. Not one situation is outside his control. his reign. Come and behold him, Christ the Lord.
And he is creating in and of you a beautiful image, restoring in you the image of his likeness, an image that bears to the world the radiance of the beauty and glory of God.
You are his artwork displaying the beauties of God to the world. The artwork of the one who is the potter and clay. The storms are the triumph of his art. You are his artwork, his creation, his delight, his pride, signed belonging, made and created by him. You are his artwork, for whom he came down, and to whom he bids you still, daily, moment by moment to come still.
Come to the one who came down for you, who came as full God and fully man to bridge the chasm, to calm the storms of the conflict, to reconcile the irreconcilable and to soften, purify and beautiful hardened hearts. For at the cross, at the storm of Jesus’ own life, we see the triumph of his work of redemption for us. His ultimate triumph against sin, the world and the devil. At the cross, at the depths of Christ’s own suffering for us, we see the triumph of his recreation, renewal, redemption of the world as he rose as Lord over all. Away Despair.
George Herbert’s poem begins, Away Despair and calls us to set our hope on Christ who is our captain, not only with us and in full steering control of the boat in the storm, fully sovereign over your loss, your relationship conflict, your grief and loneliness, your battle against pride and anger, but he makes of the storms the very triumphs of his beautiful, heart satisfying, faith purifying, God-glorfiying art. Through this pain you’re in at this Advent time, know Christ as fully man and fully God who knows your every despair in this fallen world, who has triumphed and is your victory.
…. Despair away
We can bid our despair gone, bid it away because our victory, our refuge, is in Christ. And wonderfully, mercifully, Christ our Captain, bids us come with all our despair, in the midst of the storm, because Christ Incarnate is God who Came down, who as fully God and fully man, the Word of God spoke the Word of God to us:
Come to Me