Advent: Facing Darkness

Recordings, notes and application questions

Each week, we produce notes, discussion points and application questions for the Sunday talks — helping you go deeper into everything we’re looking at together and resourcing our Small Groups during the week. Use the embedded player to listen to the talk, or click here to visit Soundcloud and download it on a PC. You can also find the accompanying Powerpoint presentation here.

Key Passages

  • Isaiah 9:2–7
  • John 1:1–18
  • Judges 6–8
  • Isaiah 6:1–7
  • Matthew 27:45–54
  • John 20:24–31

Notes

Advent in the Christian calendar is about both looking back to the first coming of Christ and looking forward to His second coming. It is a time to live in the tension of the now (He has come) and the not yet (He is to come). This involves having eyes open to the darkness around us, while holding on to Christ as the ‘light of the world’ (John 8:12), whose light has not and will not be overcome (John 1:5). New creation has begun with the life, death and resurrection of Christ. But it is not fully here. So, we can be real about present pain and wait (actively and expectantly) in the promise of future glory.

Advent is a season of ‘hope in the midst of hopelessness’ (Rutledge) as we acknowledge our need and the gravity of the human condition, taking hold of hope that is entirely outside of ourselves — the action of God on our behalf. Isaiah (meaning ‘Yahweh in Salvation) as a book captures hope in hopelessness well. Human sin is destructive. The promise of God to put things right is ultimately restorative.

Advent begins in the dark (Isaiah 9:2). Darkness both outside of us and yet also within (we find ourselves complicit — Rom 3:23). It can feel oppressive and leave us with a sense of hopelessness (it’s too much for us).

Just as was the case in Isaiah’s day and at Jesus’ birth, we find ourselves in a time where there is much darkness. Our news is full of dark stories, and the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year was “toxic”.

We, like Isaiah, need God to act on out behalf. God did act for Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1–6). He has acted for us (Isaiah 9:5–6) in sending His Son, Jesus — the light shining into our darkness (John 1:1–5)

Through His life, death and resurrection Jesus has won the ultimate victory over darkness. He is the ‘Sun of righteousness’ risen with healing in its wings (Malachi 4:2). He is the uncreated light who has overcome the darkness decisively at the cross, announced at His resurrection. Because of this, we know He will come again and make all things new (Rev 21)

Application Questions

  1. What spoke to you most from Sunday’s sermon?
  2. How do you feel about the season of Advent?
  3. What has been your experience of 2018?
  4. To what extent are you conscious of living ‘in a land of deep darkness’ as per Isaiah 9:2? What things are particularly troubling within the news / your present experience?
  5. How do we find ourselves caught up in ungodly systems?
  6. What is repentance? Why is repentance actually a joyful and very positive thing? nb: it is enabled and preceded by the gracious promise of God who acts on our behalf (and already has in Christ… ‘to us a child in born, to us a Son is given’)
  7. How do we make repentance a way of life?
  8. Think about John 1:1–5 — How does Jesus’ first coming shine light into our darkness? How has it changed everything? How can we live in that light, enabling it to colour how we respond to troubling news items / personal circumstances?
  9. When you think about Jesus’ second coming, what comes to mind? Why is it that we can eagerly await His return as Judge? Because He will put the world to rights and destroy everything that is destructive. Because He is (as Karl Barth put it) the ‘judge, judged in our place.’ He is both our judge and advocate.