On this Christmas Eve, eve of 2021, we remember the promise of Christmas then, and rejoice because it’s the promise of Christmas NOW. The Light changes everything.
Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darknessa light has dawned.
Those words from the prophet Isaiah are just as relevant and wondrous and threatening today as they were over 2000 years ago.
That’s the pesky thing about The Light; …it changes everything.
I do love the lights this time of year. I always have. Our small neighborhood cooperates for a spectacular impact. Every grapevine that borders the main drive is dripping with soft white icicle lights.
Radiance is everywhere.
Even though there are some fanatical Christmas decorators among us, we’re unable to cover the darkness. We must admit that in spite of the window dressing, the world is a dark place. But don’t miss the powerful symbolism.
When scripture speaks of darkness, it refers to both evil and ignorance. Consider what the world was like at the time of that first Christmas. Here’s the short list…violence, injustice, abuse of power, greed, homelessness, refugees fleeing oppression, family’s being ripped apart, bottomless grief. Sadly, it sounds a lot like today.
As I’ve studied the context of this popular Christmas passage I was surprised to read about their efforts back then, and how they tried to solve their problem of darkness.
Isaiah 8:19,20. 19 …Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do. But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.
Chapter 8 ends bleakly with verses 21 and 22. In summary, distressed and hungry, anguished and in dark despair, the people will curse God.
Looking to our Own Resources
Here’s the thing. NO ONE is capable of solving the problem of the evil and suffering. Not then. And Not now. Oh how history repeats itself. At the time of Jesus’ birth, people were looking to their own resources.
Is it really any different today? We humans want a world of unity and peace. We think with enough intellect and ingenuity, we can dispel the darkness. IF we had the right policies, we could overcome injustice, poverty and evil. IF we could work together we could create a world of unity and peace. Sounds a bit like a campaign speech doesn’t it?
But I wonder… Can we?
One of the most thoughtful world leaders of the late 20th century was Vaklav Havel, 1st president of the Czech Republic. He had a unique vantage point to observe both socialism and capitalism and was not optimistic that either one would, by itself, solve the deepest human problems. Because science unguided by moral principals had given us the holocaust, he concluded that neither technology, nor the state, nor the market alone, could save us. Democracy alone wasn’t enough. A turning to and seeking of God was needed.
The truth is we CAN’T establish a world without darkness; We CAN’T build a world of unity and peace. Havel puts it well… “The fact that humanity thinks it can save itself with some political system or ideology, has only led to more darkness. If you turn to science to illuminate you, things look even darker.”
Makes you wonder about the catch phrase of the year, ‘follow the science’, doesn’t it?
But then … Christmas was born.
The Light changed everything.
When you walk into a dark room, in order to see reality you must first turn on the light. Similarly, when you live in a dark world, only through The Light, are you able to know reality.
Notice this nuance. Isaiah 9:2 does NOT say, FROM the world a light has emerged. Instead, it says ON the world a light has dawned. There is light outside this world. And Jesus has brought that light to us. In fact, Jesus is the light. (John 8:12)
While driving at night, if you turn your headlights off, you’re likely to crash. Why? Light reveals the truth of things, how they really are. Likewise, Jesus, the Light, informs everything else.
If that first Christmas brought the light, how do we access it today?
“For to us a child is born. To us a son is given.”
He can be ours only IF we receive Him. He doesn’t barge in and demand notice. The Light that covered the darkness with all its life and grace can only enter in if we receive Him. It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the nice story of a baby in a manger. But it’s necessary we receive Him as our own personal Light of life, our Savior and Lord.
Here’s the thing. When the Light dawns, you can’t just carry on like nothing happened. It’s not possible to act indifferently. On that first Christmas, no one said… Oh isn’t that nice, the Messiah is born. Isn’t He inspiring? Jesus makes me want to live a better life. No! The Light was so jarring, so threatening to the status quo, they were dumbfounded, lost in wonder, love and praise. The same can be true for you today.
Dear Gracious Lord, We praise you for the miracle of Christmas. Forgive us for keeping The Light boxed up in our nice safe Christmas traditions. Help us to allow The Light to enter in. Thank you that when we do, The Light changes everything.