It’s the day after Christmas. The pile of presents under the tree is gone, the recycling bin now extra full of shredded wrapping paper and empty boxes, the extra dishes from having family gathered are (almost) done, all the new toys have (mostly) found a home, and the house is quiet. Today two miracles occurred. First, both kids are napping at the same time, and second, I got to close my eyes for a few minutes AND have a little time to spare for writing! Seriously, this almost never happens. Thank you, Jesus!
I recently read that in the traditional church calendar, the Christmas season is the 12 days after December 25th. Um, yes, please! How did I miss this?? Sometimes it feels that no matter how hard I try, the chaos of December still seems to overwhelm me by the end of the month. But after December 25th there is a bit more space to think and just be. It is in this space I now sit, pausing to reflect and actually write some thoughts.
Throughout this Advent season, I have been repeatedly drawn to this verse: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
On those living in a land of deep darkness a light has dawned. The older I get the more clearly I see the darkness around me and inside me. While Jesus has defeated sin, death, and hell at the cross, we still live in a fallen, broken world filled with deep darkness.
A 5 minute scroll through Facebook or a short glance at a local newspaper (I mean website. Who reads an actual hard copy newspaper these days?) will reveal enough darkness to discourage anyone. Darkness in the world – Injustice, oppression, famine, war, refugee crisis, ISIS, violent extremist groups, poverty, disease, natural disasters. Darkness in our homeland – Violence, racism, white supremacy, division, abuse, pollution, consumerism, political extremism, polarized opinions and dogma so tied to one’s identity that the ability to find common ground is lost, senseless deaths, and the list could go on and on. This isn’t even touching the darkness in our own personal lives or the darkness in our own hearts. Pride, selfishness, hatred, complacency, idolatry. My head aches just thinking about it all. I want to hide under my covers and watch YouTube videos of laughing babies and kittens all day, pretending that none of this darkness exists. I don’t want to face the immensity of it all because when I try, it is simply too overwhelming and I am crushed by its weight and the impossibility of ever finding a remedy.
I think of how dark it must have felt for the Israelites in the space between the final prophetic words of the Old Testament and the fateful words of the angel to a young virgin girl that marked the beginning of the New Testament all those years later. Until that day, there was only divine silence day after day after day. Unrest, captivity, injustice, living as refugees, senseless death, and war must have been overwhelming. How hard it must have been to continue to hold on to the prophesies, the promises, the words of hope spoken by the prophets of old: On those living in a land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
But all of a sudden, on one seemingly ordinary day, in a small, inconsequential, ordinary town, an angel appeared to one ordinary young girl and light began to dawn. The slumbering, hibernating world began to waken, stirring and stretching as the voice of God once again was heard on earth. I think of the dawning of a new day, the first rays of light piercing the darkness of night, the atmosphere glowing in anticipation of the rising sun. Luminescence replacing darkness.
This is why we can celebrate and rejoice in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, in the midst of our brokenness and pain. On that ordinary, extraordinary day, heaven came down to earth. Immortality became mortal, the All Powerful became helpless, the King of Kings became a baby, born in a humble manger bringing with him Light and Life for all people.
In this Christmas season it is the Light of Hope that we celebrate. We celebrate a light that reaches to the darkest of places. Even though we do not yet see it’s full effects, we believe and hope in the truth of this Light. The evidence of darkness remains all around us, but we live in the the tension of the now and the not yet. We live in the reality that Jesus came and He is coming, and as we encounter darkness our heart’s cry is, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This means that for that exhausting day the toddler keeps throwing temper tantrums and the baby won’t sleep, for the refugee crisis in war torn lands, and for everything in between, there is hope illuminated by the Light of Jesus.
Rejoice, weary soul! Light has dawned.