Advent in the Lion’s Den

Sunday, November 29, 2020
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Daniel 6:6-27 

Okay, seriously. Does 2020 feel like the Lion’s Den or what? It is dark in here. Really dark…

We can feel the hot breath on our neck of the ravenous unrelenting beast – COVID.

We are desperately praying we don’t get devoured before the light breaks in.

In our scripture passage, Judah is in exile, captives in a foreign land – and they have been for decades. Their oppressors recklessly trampling everything holy and precious underfoot. Their temple is a pile of rubble. No longer can they gather there for worship; no longer do they hear the trumpets and choirs and shouts of Hallelujah. Can you relate?

Psalm 137 speaks of this dark time:

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept as we remembered Zion.
We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of willow trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.

Our tormentors demanded songs of joy, saying

“Sing for us one of those songs of Zion!”

But how could they sing in a foreign land?

They sat down and wept …

They Hoped, they prayed, and waited for what seemed like forever.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here…”

Depressing, eh?

Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. The very first Sunday of our church year.

The word Advent is adapted from Latin word adventus, which means “coming or arrival”

In this season, we look forward to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. We also look beyond that to the second coming…  when Christ shall return in glory at the end of the age. But we also look back. We look back and remember the darkness – We remember when Judah was in exile, captive in a strange land. Waiting, hoping, yearning and praying for Redemption

Advent was originally instituted the fifth century as a time of fasting three times a week for six weeks – something akin to Lent – to prepare one’s heart for Christ’s coming.  And historically, the church has marked Advent by waiting in the dark.  Did you catch that? WAITING in the DARK – but with anticipation and hope – for the light of the world to appear.

Waiting in the dark? It is probably safe to say that, on the whole, Americans prepare for Christmas with so many twinkling lights, cookies and festivities that by the time Jesus is born, we are five pounds heavier and ready to keel over with exhaustion.  Waiting in the dark doesn’t really describe it.

Well, not this year. THIS year ADVENT feels a whole lot different.  THIS year we are sitting in the darkness of an uncertain future. THIS year we, along with captive Israel, sit and weep as we remember. We remember the festive gatherings and the laughter of family and friends.  We remember the concerts and plays and parties. We remember a sanctuary filled with trumpets and candles and choirs and carols. Yes, it is hard.

We are sitting in darkness. And to be honest, we are hurting. We are waiting. But we are not without hope.

Daniel heard the King Darius’ edict.  And understood it and knew the consequences of disobedience. Yet, he turns toward Jerusalem to kneel in prayer… just has he always had.  In defiance of the empire – In defiance of that dark power, Daniel places his heart, his hope and his future into the hands of the God who saves.

It sure looked like the forces of darkness won when Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s Den. And did I mention it was dark in there? With the rank hot breath of hungry lions on his neck? But you know what? He was not alone. God went with him… Into the pit of darkness. Into the fear. into the isolation. and into the unknown. And God never left.

Miraculously, the lion’s jaws were shut, and Daniel makes it through the night untouched.

In a great reversal, King Darius now mandates that the entire empire, people of every faith and language and race, praise the God of Daniel.

In Verses 26, 27…King Darius proclaims…

For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

The darkness is very real this Advent, and the light of a new day seems far off.

But in a strange way, we are also given a unique opportunity this year. This advent.

Our calendars look different. The relentless pace of entertaining, shopping, and celebrating has eased to a quiet trickle. We find ourselves reflecting, hoping… and yes, waiting in the dark.

In this new advent, let us us join Daniel in prayer- in prayer-filled defiance of everything that might rob us of true life and light and joy.

In this new advent, let us boldly place our trust in the God who works miracles. Let us pray for a vaccine to shut the jaws of the COVID beast that threatens so many lives.

In this new advent, let us remember that we are NOT alone.

With Daniel, O God – we turn our faces toward YOU, Our hope.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

Bring your light into our dark world. AMEN.

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