Advent: Born to Set the People Free

Psalm 27  

The Lord is my light and my salvation— 
    whom shall I fear? 
The Lord is the stronghold of my life— 
    of whom shall I be afraid? 

For in the day of trouble 
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling; 
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent 
    and set me high upon a rock. 

I remain confident of this: 
    I will see the goodness of the Lord 
    in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord; 
    be strong and take heart 
    and wait for the Lord. 


Acts 2:37-39-42 

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 

On a recent drive from the Rockfish Gap Entrance to Skyline Drive in Virginia, the flashing sign at the National Park entrance warned of deer crossing the road and the number of vehicles versus deer collisions this year. We were searching for autumn leaves at the time of year when the leaves change colors on the mountains before they change in the valleys. As we ascended in elevation, we found the yellows and reds of fall amid the green of deciduous trees preparing to display their brilliance. The road conditions changed from cloudy to foggy to extremely poor visibility. The warning of the number of stricken deer flashed in our minds. If only we could see the road and anticipate what was around the next curve. 

Then light shines through the clouds and disperses the fog. The road becomes clear momentarily, enough to see the next turn. Clouds and mist quickly consume the roads and curves ahead. Photographers attempt to capture the brilliance of the glory of the misty morning while trees soak in the refreshing moisture. 

As we come to the Advent season, we wonder when the Lord Jesus will come and break through the places encased in the fog of our unknowing, the clouds that sock in and shroud our visibility. When will we see, hear, and experience God as our “light and our salvation?” When will we find faith to trust amid the unseen places ahead? When will the light of God eventually break through our unclear paths? 

Advent reminds us that Christ comes in obscure and hidden spaces and places. In Bethlehem of Judea, the skies light up with angel annunciations and proclamations to the unremarkable shepherds invited to see the manger, where a baby lies wrapped in swaddling clothes. Shepherds hurry to see this amazingly wonderous and miraculous sign that God has come clothed in humanity. Shepherds depart, rejoicing that they have gazed upon the beauty of the Lord. 

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Bring your light and salvation to places and spaces where we need you to shine, illuminate, unveil, and appear. Keep us from unseen dangers and collisions around the bend in the intermittent fog of our lives. When we hover on the verge of hopeless despair, help us to hear the persistent hope in the psalmist’s words as they remind us that they would have lost hope unless they believed they would see the Lord’s goodness in “the land of the living.” 

After Christ’s ascension, the people cry out when Peter preaches the good news at Pentecost, asking what they should do for this salvation. They receive instructions to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. The promise of God’s Spirit and salvation extends to them and the subsequent generations, to all the ones God calls. The exemplars who believed the good news met together, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer. 

Come again, Jesus, with your light, Spirit, and salvation. Restore hope to us here where we live in this generation and places where we dwell. We eagerly anticipate your presence among us. Amen. 


Nancy Penton

Rev. Dr. Penton is an ordained minister, a board-certified chaplain, a trained spiritual director, and a retreat facilitator. She graduated from McAfee School of Theology with a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry. She serves as an adjunct professor at McAfee, where she has taught classes in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Discernment. Nancy has also taught classes in Spiritual Formation and the Life and Practice of Prayer for the Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership‘s Christian Leadership Formation program since the fall of 2018.