Hosanna, Hallelujah! Jesus, Coming Light, Draw Near: A Christmas Devotion by Shelly Schwalm

Hosanna, Hallelujah! Jesus, Coming Light, draw near.

Early winter mornings are brutal, aren’t they? When I’m out of bed earlier than I’d like on a dark, 4-degree Minnesota morning, the dawn seems to drag its feet worse than I do and weighs differently.

The people of the Bible were very acquainted with darkness. Darkness concealed attackers, dangerous animals, and who knows what else. There were not street lights or switches to flip on a bulb.

The physical darkness—as well as that of oppressive kingdoms, sin, and a longing for the Messiah—created an urgency that can be heard in Psalm 130:5-6.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

Since the first century, the historic tradition of the Church has celebrated Christmas in December—in the midst of winter’s darkness. Isn’t it so fitting? At the time of year when the darkness weighs heaviest and longest, the Light of the World breaks in.

John 1 says of the incarnation: “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Advent is our chance to see and feel the reality of the darkness. It is here. And it does not win. The light has come and is coming. In knowing our crushing darkness, we lean in, straining to see any glimmer of daylight’s relief. More than watchmen for the morning.

As we long for the dawn in this season, so many who long come to mind:

Ones who wait for jobs amidst unemployment.
Ones who wait for relief from the burden of pain in their bodies.
Ones who count the hours until a semester break.
For a baby to come. For restoration in broken relationships. For that loved one to be won over by Jesus.  For that special someone. For those loans to be paid. For depression to lift. For the crushing ache of life to subside just a bit. For a chance to catch a breath. For the world to not be so loud, so ugly, so broken.

Cries of Hosanna are fitting as we long. Jesus, come save us.
So are Hallelujahs as we know the Savior is near. Praise the Lord.
In Advent, Hosannas and Hallelujahs share a table as we lean into the promises of hope, peace, joy, and love that Jesus brings. They aren’t just sweet gifts to add to our nice little lives. Jesus brings them because we need them. This Messiah is not deterred by the depths of our darkness. We cry out for Him and rejoice He is coming.

In the early winter mornings, though still dark, the sky slowly—but mostly certainly—is lightening. The panes of the glass brighten just a touch with each glance. Light comes and is coming.

The night is yielding. It knows its time is short. Because this light, by its very essence, insists that every surface and particle be illuminated and brought to life.

In the midst of these winter days of the season and of our hearts, days where darkness can feel so close to overcoming, may we cling to these promises. For those living in a land of deep darkness, a light has shined upon them. (Isaiah 9:2) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13) We don’t have to fear evil or the shadow of death because our Good Shepherd, who is with us, has lit up the whole valley.

For it was in the midst of a dark night in Bethlehem, that the Light of the World was pleased to arrive among a nervous couple and some shepherds.

And it was in the darkness of the early morning—when darkness had convinced us it won–, that resurrection broke through. This same Babe laid in a manger in dead of night, is the Resurrection bursting forth from an Easter tomb. He has come and is coming back for you.

Take heart, dear ones. While the night may seem to linger, Jesus, our Coming Light, is drawing near.

To listen to Jesus, Coming Light:

The lyrics of this new hymn, Jesus, Coming Light, were written by Shelly Schwalm. Performed by Blake Flattley and produced by Steve Zank, this is the title track of the Advent EP released by 1517 Music in 2021.

Shelly Schwalm will be one of Camp Arcadia’s lecturers for the 2023 season alongside Matt Popovits for Family Week 5 (July 23-29). She is a Director of Christian Education serving as University Ministry Associate at Concordia University St. Paul. She is a double alum from CSP with her DCE degree and a Master’s in Creative Writing and has also served as a Bible study leader for the LCMS Youth Gathering.

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