We must be willing to see everyone as created in the image of God, Randall observes.
We desperately need Advent this year, more than any time I can remember.
This season of waiting with expectation and preparing for the coming of Christmas offers a time for Christians to reflect upon our lives and the world around us. It is a season for understanding that our need for the Immanuel persists.
Disciples of Jesus use this time before Christmas to prepare themselves for the meaning and purpose of this sacred season.
This year brought numerous moments when the darkness of this world seemed to overcome the light of hope:
- North Korea fired a ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan.
- Humanitarian crises continued in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, to name only a few locations.
- Chemical attacks occurred in Syria.
- The U.S. dropped the world's largest non-nuclear weapon.
- Computers were hit by a cyber-ransom attack.
- A terrorist bombed a concert in Manchester, England.
- The U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Ethnic cleansing took place in Myanmar (Burma).
- Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma destroyed life and property.
- Protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, revealed the depth of racial tensions in the U.S.
- Equifax security was breached, exposing millions of customers to potential identity theft.
- A mass shooting in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546.
- A bombing in Mogadishu killed 512 people.
- A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck Iran and Iraq.
- Political turmoil and investigations continued to make the daily headlines.
- Sexual abuse allegations were confirmed in workplaces and politics.
- S. House and Senate tax bill revealed a country more divided than ever.
These are some of the many instances from 2017 that can leave the most stable person feeling a sense of overwhelming angst and worry.
We need Advent more now than ever before.
We need to consider the world around us seriously and what it means to be part of a symbiotic society created by God. We need to reflect upon the reality that Jesus came into this world not only for "me" but also for "thee" as well.
Amid a year overcome with moments of darkness, we need the candles of the Advent wreath to shine the flames of hope, love, joy and peace.
Isaiah 7:14 proclaims, "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."
The Immanuel is still among us, as the Holy Spirit indwells goodwill Christians to be God's voice, hands and feet unto the world.
We mustn't let the darkness overcome our hope. We mustn't let those seeking to divide and devour us win the day. We mustn't let systems of this world steal our humanity. We mustn't let the power speak for God.
Instead, we must be children of light. We must choose hope over despair. We must demand that justice replace injustice. We must stand up to the darkness of this world, shining the light of Advent for all to see.
We must be willing to see everyone as created in the image of God. We need to take the Word of God seriously, letting those precious truths penetrate our hearts and minds to be the presence of Jesus in this world.
Indeed, we need Advent this year! We need to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for the coming of Christmas.
We need to realize the "God with us" is also the "God in us" and the "God through us." We need to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christmas so that we can make sure that the goodwill of this season reverberates throughout this world.
While the darkness has had its moments this past year, Advent foreshadows the divine light of the manger overcoming the darkness.
We need Advent! We need light! We need hope!
Mitch Randall will begin his tenure as executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com on Jan. 1, 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @rmitchrandall.