The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! Sunbursts of light! You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. … For a child has been born – for us! The gift of a son – for us! ~ Isaiah 9:2-3
Of all the passages of Scripture that we read during the Advent and Christmas seasons, this has always been my favorite. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived my whole life in the Midwest – a place of beauty, to be sure, but a place that, during the winter months, can feel cold and dark. Surely “a land of deep shadows.”
And in our lives, how often have we found ourselves walking in darkness? There are any number of things that at times can and do blot out the light, plunging our hearts and our spirits into darkness – illness, fear, uncertainty, stress, grief. We continue to move through life during these times, but we still feel that darkness. It eclipses everything else and dulls our reaction. Isaiah’s words may have originally been spoken for the people of Israel, but they continue to resonate with us today. Surely, we know what it’s like to be people who walk in darkness.
For the church, Advent is a season of waiting … a season of expectation … a season of darkness as we anticipate the coming of the Light. Today, it’s easy for us to forget that part of Advent. Our to-do lists are so long. We have cookies to bake, presents to buy and wrap, trees and homes to decorate, carols to sing, loved ones to visit, favorite holiday movies to watch, Christmas cards/letters to write and send. We are surrounded by the glitz and sparkle of advertisements and lights. But sometimes this light only serves to make the darkness feel even thicker, even heavier, even darker.
And yet, in the face of this darkness, Isaiah speaks of another Light – “sunbursts of light,” even! The Hebrew word that Isaiah uses is the same word that gets used to describe daybreak, a Light so vivid and bright that it seems almost alive. In the face of our deepest darkness, this Light shines. And as John’s gospel tells us, this is a Light that cannot be extinguished.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. ~ John 1:4-5.
And where do we find this Light? In his own beautiful way, Isaiah tells us. “For a child has been born – for us! The gift of a son – for us!”
There is light in the eyes of a baby. There is light in a baby’s smile, in a baby’s laugh, in the peaceful look on a sleeping baby’s face. But the Light that this child is about to bring goes beyond that light. The Light that is coming is one of salvation and grace and peace beyond measure. The Light that is coming will banish every darkness forever and wrap us in a love that we cannot even begin to imagine. This is the Light for which we wait during the Advent season. This is the Light which dawns anew for us each Christmas morning.
And so in the midst of this dark and cold season, in the midst of the twinkling lights and the red and green sprinkles, we pray …
Come, Lord Jesus, come.