Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Light in the Darkness

December 25, 2018  –– Christmas
Isaiah 9:1–6 / Psalm 96 / Titus 2:11–14 / Luke 2:1–14
Light in the Darkness

Generally speaking, humans do not like darkness. Many people complain of Seasonal Affective Disorder and are depressed when days are short or overcast for too long. Of course, “darkness” is relative (actually, “darkness" only exists according to the degree to which light is decreased). We have ways of making “relative darkness” cozy and beautiful––a small lamp or a fire in the hearth in an otherwise dark room, or a display of lights on the outside of our houses to illumine a winter night during the Christmas season.

Still, we do not do well with an absence of light…. either physically or spiritually. Have you ever been in total darkness? Years ago I visited Mammoth Cave and I still remember when our group was assembled at the lowest part of the tour and the lights were turned off for a brief time––total darkness.

The Bible begins with that image and the contrast of God’s activity: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light (Genesis 1:1–3). Throughout the rest of Scripture there is an ongoing theme of darkness and light.

A disobedience to God allowed darkness to have an inordinate place in the world. The darkness of unbelief and rebellion has besieged people for so long that we can assume it is as eternal as God himself. but the power of darkness has no chance of domination. John tells us in his first letter that God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). In Peter’s first letter we hear that God is always and forever the one who [is calling] you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

This is the promise Isaiah was making to God’s people after they had detoured into darkness and lost hope: The people who walked in darkness have see a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. The promise was fulfilled in the little town of Bethlehem. Luke gives the details of the story: Mary and Joseph, a first-born in a manger, shepherds, and angels…. and the Good News: a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.

St Paul tells Titus what it means: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways…. We reject godless ways when we turn away from any and every thing that extends the darkness of pain and despair and death. We see the reality of the grace of God whenever a bit of light shines on our path.

Christmas is the celebration that Jesus is that Light. God himself came to dwell among us and open the way to the fulness of Life . John opens his Gospel saying In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world…. [and] to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:5–12).

Like the Christmas lights that shine into these winter nights, we are immersed in a Light that darkness cannot overcome. This is why, on that night long ago, the angels illumined the sky and sang: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace those on whom his favor rests.

Through Jesus Christ, the favor of God rests on us. It is the gift of Light and Life.

Merry Christmas!

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