to me, the advent of christ is essentially a story of deliverance.
generally we celebrate that deliverance on easter sunday much like the jews celebrate the deliverance of the children of israel from bondage during passover. but the sacrifice of the grown son of god began with the birth of the infant jesus child.
my favorite christmas carol is the advent hymn o come, o come, emmanuel. emmanuel meaning god with us is a name-title given in isaiah as a sign of god’s deliverance.
the hymn speaks of christ’s ransoming of captive israel. it speaks of christ freeing us from satan, and giving us victory over the grave. the repeating refrain is an invitation for us to rejoice. despite the realities of this life, even the horrors of the past week, we have cause to rejoice for emmanuel is promised to come to us. He has and He does.
light is used throughout our canon as a symbol of Christ. light has preceded heavenly messengers, miraculous answers to prayer and pivotal conversions. light is also at the center of the christmas story.
growing up we would join all of my cousins, aunts and uncles at my granny and grandpa’s home on christmas eve. after dinner the cousins would be adorned in granny’s fine scarves and robes. some little cousins would clutch shiny treasures from her shelves. my grandpa would narrate the account of the nativity. sometimes an uncle would act as donkey. aunts would nudge us into place. i believe i had a chance to play every role in that play, including joseph, (we had a lot of girl cousins.)
one christmas during college, my granny asked me to coordinate the play. i decided to change tradition, and begin the show five years earlier. my little brother was dressed as samuel the lamanite and our parents were armed with foil stones. this is where our account diverts from the scriptural account. you’ll recall samuel was protected from the arrows and stones – my brother did not enjoy the same protection.
grandpa began reading from the book of mormon in Helaman 14, “…for five years more cometh and behold then cometh the son of god to redeem all those who shall believe on his name. this will i give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; there shall be great lights in heaven…”
five years pass and the nephites watch courageously for that day and night and day which will be as one day as samuel had promised. the believers faced death if the sign did not appear. it is in that moment that a sorrowing prophet took his heavy heart to god. nephi cried mightily to the lord. and on that christmas eve long ago, the lord spoke, “lift up your head and be of good cheer… on this night shall the sign be given and on the morrow come i nto the world.”
i love this account. it exemplifies christ perfectly as our comforter as he speaks to nephi the night before his own birth. his deliverance for the nephites that night was immediate. our moments of deliverance may not be as swift. we may feel that we linger too long in our dark moments of despair. even as we call out for succor it may feel as if there is none. but the deliverance of His Grace is sure.
it is His light we rejoice in. “let him come and cheer our spirits by his advent here. we know he can disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” (o come, o come emmanuel; verse 3)
the joy of this christmas season seems to be overshadowed as we all mourn with those families in connecticut. we may also have sorrows that the eye can’t see. my sorrow this month is the fact that i am losing another pregnancy. i acutely feel the heaviness of my loss and that of so many others.
but i also feel something else.
while attending a living nativity at my friend’s adventist church i made my way with the others towards bethlehem. there were helpful wise men and shepherds along the way. we turned the last corner with the manger in view. huddled together before the holy family i began to cry. under a bright star i was reminded just how miraculous it is that we have a savior. that he was born and died for us. and that he lives.
that truth brought me peace.
“and we talk of christ, we rejoice in christ, we preach of christ, we prophesy of christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)