I woke up at 3am. Because of the heavy cloud cover outside, the moonlight was obscured, and it was particularly dark in our bedroom. I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus my vision, but couldn’t see anything at all. I rolled over to go back to reach for sleep again, but before I closed my eyes again, I noticed a light peeking under the edge of the closed door. The longer I looked at it, the brighter it seemed to get. As I stirred to consciousness, I assumed that with my two college students on break for the semester and my adult son visiting for the weekend, someone had forgotten to turn off the living room lights before they went to bed.
I pushed back the covers and swung my feet out of bed. After opening the door and stepping into the hall, I fully expected to find every lamp in the room switched on, but to my surprise, that wasn’t the case. The only illumination in the house was a small Christmas tree in the corner of the room farthest from our bedroom. Walking over to look at it, I was amazed at how the whole area spanning across the kitchen into the main room was washed in light. I didn’t have to stumble around the dark room at all. I could see everything with clarity. As I stood there in the early morning hours looking at those lights, I realized that this was a picture of what Christmas was all about.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
First Century Israel was a place of darkness. The people were dominated and controlled by Rome. There was vast wealth and power for a few, but the common people endured unrest and poverty. Moral degeneration, injustice, and wickedness blanketed the land, and idolatry permeated the culture. It was into this hopeless and helpless condition that God sent His Son to shine the light into the darkness and change the world forever.
Fast forward some 2000 years, and you may have noticed, society hasn’t really changed at all as people today more and more choose to revel in darkness. In fact, it feels as if we’re assaulted every day with the blackness of sin and corruption. From the hostility and division fueled by news, social media and the political climate, to an increasingly accepted moral depravity, to our own personal tragedies that few know anything about, it’s easy to feel a sense of despair creep in as the darkness thickens. It seems we still dwell in the ‘land of the shadow of death’ that Isaiah described. We desperately need to be reminded that the Light of the world has dawned, and no matter how it may try, nightfall can never overtake Him.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ in just a few days, I want to remind you that the Light isn’t in a distant manger anymore. If you are a believer, Jesus made it clear that He is the Light of the world and through a relationship with Him, that light is now in you through the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 5:14; John 14:17) While that doesn’t mean you’ll be immune from the effects of darkness, it does mean that when you choose to follow God, it can never defeat you “because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
If the events of the day or the events of your life have caused you to feel a little disheartened lately, I urge you to take a fresh look at the only true hope for this world. It’s at the heart of the Christmas story and found in Jesus Christ Himself. Let the Light God sent push back the darkness of despair and hopelessness and illuminate your heart with His presence!
Rejoice! O World, Rejoice! Lift your praises like the shepherds! Worship like the wise men! Praise God like the angels! You have reason to celebrate!
Our Savior has come! He is Christ the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name;
make known among the nations what He has done.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him;
tell of all His wonderful acts.
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.