Look around you this time of year and it’s probably easy to see why Christmas is known as the season of light.
Lights are twinkling on trees and in windows, on roofs and wreaths and lining driveways. Christmas concerts and parades and sweaters and pageants and nativities and music and parties. A season that’s merry and bright. It’s the season of light.
So why does it sometimes feel like we’re drowning in the darkness?
We live in a time and a place where bad news is no longer that surprising, and the real surprise is when journalists spend precious minutes highlighting something good.
We live in a world marred by death and disease, by pain and brokenness, by violence and warfare, by torture and discrimination, by broken hearts and broken minds.
We live in an era where money talks. Where evil leads the way. Where it sometimes feels like no one is listening to the cries for help calling out right in front of our eyes… or even the cries for help that are coming out of our own mouths.
It’s fair to say we live in darkness.
Some say it’s not easy to talk about these things this close to Christmas. As if to imply that these things are easy to talk about, anytime at all.
But Advent – this season of anticipation and of patience and of hopefulness – demands that amid all of the concerts and parades and holiday celebrations… as we prepare for and anticipate the coming of the Messiah… that we not somehow overlook the very real pain and brokenness that makes the Messiah’s coming so very beautiful in the first place.
In other words: we can't appreciate the intensity of the Light when we're underestimating the power of the darkness.
Jesus entered into a world reeling in the darkness of pain and brokenness. He entered into a world shadowed by the darkness of oppression. For so many, the severity of that darkness had extinguished any and all hope for the Messianic prophecy... that a Messiah would someday arrive.
It was into that darkness that the Light of the World was born.
So, too, it is in our darkness that we can see and feel and experience the Light in a fuller way.
The Season of Advent offers us an invitation to – however incompletely – consider the darkness of our world... even as we hope for and anticipate the coming of the Light of all Lights.
The Season of Advent beckons us to explore the ways in which we – however unknowingly – participate in the darkness... even as we proclaim the gospel message of a light that illumines every darkest shadow.
The Season of Advent provides us with a beautiful opportunity to become vessels that – however imperfectly – seek to reflect the Light of Christ to a world in need of Light... even as we continue to live in that world and are in need of that Light ourselves.
We live in a world of darkness. This is something we might do well to acknowledge. And actually, if we said we didn't live in a world of darkness, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
We live in a world of darkness.
And yet, we don’t live in a world without hope.
We don't live in a world without hope. For “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14) Or as Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase puts it: “The Word moved into the neighborhood.”
Our neighborhood. Our pain. Our brokenness. Our death and despair. Our violence and warfare. The Word lives among us. In Him is life and light. And the light shines so brightly and brilliantly in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome it.
In a world of darkness, we nevertheless follow the Light.
So as we prepare for the coming of the Messiah, let us not forget that the Light moves into our neighborhoods and into the darkest corners of our lives.
As we raise our voices loud with songs of gloria in excelsis deo, let us also be mindful to be listening for the voices of the voiceless and the vulnerable who are in need of the Light.
And by the grace of God, may we seek in our own lives to be vessels that reflect the light of Christ to dwelling places well beyond our own hearts and homes.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
Thanks be to God. Amen.
This post was originally written as a meditation on the prologue to John's Gospel (John 1:1-14), proclaimed at St. Giles Presbyterian Church on December 14, 2014.
I'm a husband, a father, a news junkie, a theatre enthusiast, an amateur foodie, a wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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