First Wednesday of Advent: Stronger than Hate

By Tom Pappalardo

Advent Devotional | December 5, 2018

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

—Colossians 1:13-20 (Read Colossians 1)

“Dominion of darkness” is a rather serious way of putting things. It’s not a phrase that I hear followers of Christ using. Instead, we talk about how God Himself came and continues to come into “our mess.” But what does this mean?

For many of us, “our mess” just means unmade beds when we leave for work, the sometimes cross or selfish words we speak to our spouses or our children, or worse still, when we  follow too closely behind another driver—with unkind commentary—because we are in a rush and they are moving too slow.

For most of us, those hushed dark sins that we deny and hide are seldom mentioned.

After all, “messes” can be cleaned up. We are people with manageable problems, just a tweak needed here or there. Right?

On October 27th in Pittsburgh, “the dominion of darkness” made an appearance that shocked us all. Eleven people were massacred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, and the entire community and nation reeled from yet another senseless mass shooting.

Within hours, the slogan “Pittsburgh: Stronger than Hate” marched across our social media feeds. Vigils were organized and flowers were left as a remembrance near the synagogue. Hundreds of us showed up at the memorial service in Oakland, and hundreds more stood in the rain because there were no seats left inside the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial auditorium.

But the “dominion of darkness” wasn’t only in the murderer. Within 48  hours, the mourning changed. Finger-pointing and hate returned to a community caught in the midst of grief and anger. I found myself falling into the politics of it all. No longer was I at the edge of tears as I thought about the defenseless, developmentally-challenged, and faithful brothers who were gunned down a few days prior. Now my words became weapons that I wielded without mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Because when it comes down to it, hate and “the mess” are indiscriminate.

As much as we attempt to distance ourselves, we often find ourselves back in the middle of it all, and sometimes, in the midst of our own prayers of repentance, we see our own dark and complicit heart.

This is why “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness” is truly a hallelujah for us, especially in the midst of our ongoing repentance as believers. The good news is that He came to rescue us from this heavy darkness that envelopes us all.

He rescues us!

Even in the midst of pain and suffering, in the mess of the world and the darkness of our hearts, Jesus beckons us to keep following Him. As we step out from the crowd and choose to follow that flickering light that pierces the darkness, He is there. Hallelujah!

Tom Pappalardo serves the CCO as Vice President for Development.