Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
Winter is my favorite season; it always has been. It’s full of all the things I love—cold brisk air, cozy sweaters, boots, fires, and if I am lucky, snow! This year, though, I’ve been keenly aware of the darkness that winter brings. The sun sets earlier and night overtakes the day, swallowing up all its light. It’s never bothered me before, but this year it feels bleak and heavy. Maybe I’m just more aware of it because of the kind of year we’ve had, but I have found myself wishing for summer days again—longing for life-giving light.
I don’t know what this year has held for you, but I know for many it’s been hard. Parents are overwhelmed; members of our body have lost loved ones; others are dealing with ongoing health issues. Many have lost jobs and are struggling financially. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. Families have endured long periods of separation. So many people are anxious, weary, lonely, and discouraged. And it seems as if darkness has indeed swallowed up the light. This extended period of darkness has many of us looking for relief, for some measure of joy in the midst of the hard. But maybe, rather than fighting against the darkness, we should take some time to ponder it. Perhaps it has put us in a position to truly see and celebrate the hope of Christ’s entrance into our dark world in a way that our affluence and comfort has blinded us to in seasons past.
In the time of the prophet Isaiah, the nations of Israel and Judah were under God’s judgment, facing invasions and utter desolation of their land. The devastation was such that Isaiah said “wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair” (Isaiah 8:22). But in the midst of this darkness, the Lord promised a great light—a child would be born who would extinguish the darkness forever (Isaiah 9:1-7). Here during a dark season for the nations of Israel and Judah, God’s severe mercy was at work. In the midst of judgment, the hope of redemption was planted. In the midst of utter darkness, the promise of glorious light took root. In the midst of God’s seeming absence, the promise of Immanuel, God with us, gathered strength. None of that generation ever saw the fulfillment of God’s promises, but we have. His name is Jesus!
Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises through the Old Testament and the prophets. He is the promised redemption found all the way back in Genesis 3:15. He is the promise of God with us in Isaiah 7. He is the promised great light in Isaiah 9. And he is the promised salvation, justice, and righteousness promised in Isaiah 11.
Without physical darkness, we cannot truly know and experience light. And without spiritual darkness, we cannot truly know and experience the light of Christ penetrating the darkness of our world. This season can be fruitful for us spiritually if we allow the darkness to reveal our need for the light and if we resist the urge to fight against it or push it back in unhealthy ways.
This month, we are focusing on Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. We’ve chosen four Old Testament passages with their New Testament fulfillment. Read one each week of December and spend time reflecting on the questions we provided. We also updated our Piercing the Darkness Advent Prayer Calendar to help you not only pray for those who have been affected by this year but also to tangibly engage them in such a way that you can bring the light of Christ to bear on their lives.
We pray that the hope of Christ found in the Scriptures will flood you with light this Christmas.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
This month, we want to focus on four specific promises from the Old Testament. As you read each passage, think about how God fulfilled his promises through Jesus. Each week of December, read one promise and its fulfillment and reflect on it using the questions below.
- What is the specific promise?
- How has the promise been fulfilled in Christ?
- How can remembering God’s fulfillment of this promise give you comfort, hope, and assurance for today?
Promise: Genesis 3:14-15
Fulfillment: Hebrews 2:14-15
“For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”
Promise: Isaiah 9:1-7
Fulfillment: Luke 1:26-38
“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”
Promise: Isaiah 11; Isaiah 42:1-9
Fulfillment: Matthew 3; John 1:19-34
“I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
Promise: Isaiah 61:1-3
Fulfillment: Luke 4:16-21
“Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’”
This Bible Project Video takes us on a short trip through the Old Testament to examine the promises of God and how they are fulfilled in the Messiah. While we celebrate his birth this Christmas, we also look forward with expectant hope to his future return.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- We live in between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. Read John 1:1-5 and then read Revelation 22:1-6. How can this hope shape how we wait for his return so that we do not grow weary and lose heart?
- What are some unhealthy ways you have been “pushing back the darkness” this year (binge-watching, emotional eating, retail therapy, making concerns into responsibilities) ?
- The darkness and heaviness that we experience can be a gift—showing us how desperately we need Jesus. If we let the darkness reveal our need for the light, it can be a fruitful time for us. What spiritual truth or need has God revealed to you during this season? What do you need to change in your life in order to make room for Christ in the midst of this season of hard?
- How has Christ stepped in and brought his light and life to the darkness you have experienced this year?
This month, we are only providing one action step—one that we would love for all the women in our church to commit to for the month of December.
Although we are called to brightly shine the light of Christ, we can all see ways in which we have failed to do that during this difficult year. What if this month, we were more intentional about piercing the darkness with the light of Christ? Who do you know that is weary? Who do you know that is grieving? Who do you know that is isolated?
The 2020 Piercing the Darkness Advent Calendar is an invitation to intentionally serve, encourage, and pray for those in your sphere of influence. Each day has a category of people who have been significantly impacted by the challenges of this year.
Print this calendar and put it somewhere to help you focus your prayers and motivate you to encourage and serve others in tangible ways. Get creative. Include family and friends. Join us in praying for hope of Jesus to pierce the darkness, to break into a weary world, and to fill the hearts of those in need this Christmas!
4-Session Bible Study by J.D. Greear
Advent Resource from Asheritah Ciuciu