Darkness into LIGHT

Advent begins in darkness. This is a deliberate thing, meant to bring us back to a time when the prophets declared that the “people were walking in darkness.” That scripture is a word-figure for the reality of the absence of the Light of the World from our lives. Before Jesus arrived, God’s people had descended from the Garden of Eden into deep and hopeless darkness, until it was so ink-black you could not see your soul in front of your face.

We recognize the descent into darkness and Advent’s ascent into light in the things around us. The Advent wreath has four unlit candles on the first day of Advent. Each Sunday we light one, then two, then three, then four, and FINALLY we arrive at Christmas Eve, when the white Christ candle standing at the center is lit. What a joyful moment that is to behold…all the flames dancing at once in the air of anticipation met and expectation unfolded.

Ponder this Christ Candle lighting liturgy from the United Methodist Church:

O Finality.
O final Light.
O luminous One,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

O End of Night.
O Day’s Light without ending.

O Light, all light,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

Break forth, O heavenly Light, and reign to the ages of ages.
Shine forever and let no more greed or hatred near.
Illumine and save all creation,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

O Light, we shall see face to face.
O Radiancy, we shall ever bear upon our foreheads.
O Splendor of Love, the world of greed and hatred ending,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

That is a rich and beautiful series of images, emotions, and ideas. You may want to read it again. But the repetition of “outshining lamp, stars and sun” truly stands out. Jesus is the true light that illumines everything; a light that no one can extinguish.

Maybe this Christmas Eve is still dark for you. Grief, loneliness, illness, separation, missing your family, financial hardship…many things can dull the light. But all these things are worldly. Jesus is the Light of the World, and he longs to shine warmth, joy, and peace into your dark places.

Today is a day to do nothing else but embrace the Light. His light brings healing. His light brings solace. His light shines the way to eternal light, where literally none of those things matter. As much as it matters here and as deeply as you are feeling it, NONE of it will matter in eternity.

John 1 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

No darkness can overcome Jesus. He outshines the lamp. He outshines the stars. He outshines the SUN.

Bask in that light today. If you are headed to a Christmas Eve service, listen for the light, look at the light, and be the light. If you aren’t, ponder these words again just like Mary pondered the angel’s proclamation of Jesus’ birth…in your heart.

Jesus is the Light of the World! A light no one can extinguish.

Becca’s Moon by Becca Ziegler

The Miraculous, Glorious Absurdity

Isaiah 9

2 The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation

    and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you

    as people rejoice at the harvest.

Of all the Old Testament prophets who pointed to the coming of the Messiah, I love the words of Isaiah the best. Did you know that Jesus quoted from Isaiah more that any other prophet? Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the prophecies, and Isaiah apparently says it best.

One of the Advent traditions that many churches observe is called the Festival of Lessons and Carols. It tells the entire story from start to finish of how the Messiah came, and why he was necessary. While it relies on several Isaiah passages, it doesn’t start there. Surprised?

It starts with Genesis. From the beginning of time, we needed a Savior. With the first sin in the garden, humanity necessitated a saving from ifself, as it were. We see throughout the entire Old Testament that the sacrificial system offered by God in order to redeem us failed again and again.

Then came Jesus, the fulfillment of every promise and the hope of every heart. Jesus is the end-all-be-all of sacrificial lambs. He took the sins of the world upon himself and we are forever reconciled with God through Jesus’ saving death that brings eternal life.

And thus the need for the incarnation. The incarnation is understood as “God becoming flesh.” God, in his omniscience, realized that we would need a Savior that we could relate to. He chose to come to earth in the form of an infant, so that he would walk, talk, suffer, feel anger, experience temptation, know hunger and fatigue, and be relatable.

John 1

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I think the whole notion is a glorious and miraculous absurdity, and one that demonstrates God’s love beyond a doubt. That the God who created the universe would lower himself to such a humble place blows my mind. Born in dirt, cradled in straw, homeless and cold, God came, and dwelt among us. Isn’t that absurd? 

This morning I recalled a wonderful young female pastor named Alice who preached at my Annual Conference many years ago. I sat in my seat, spellbound. I had not done much preaching up to that point, and I had modeled my style after my colleagues, who were all male. When I heard Alice preach, I was stunned. She preached like a girl. She was relatable, humorous, genuine, and authentic. I never preached like a man after that. Her example helped me preach from my own voice, and it changed me forever.

The reason God came as a baby was so that he could experience the world he created, and thus be an authentic guide, a relatable savior, and a credible witness. Jesus is the real deal. The stories of his life on earth are stories we can put ourselves directly into. We can feel what he felt, see what he saw, and walk where he walked. As absurd as it was, it was the only way to save us.

God became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the greatest gift you will receive on any Christmas. How will you respond? Where will you be a credible witness, and tell this story to someone who needs to hear it? How will you relate to Jesus today?

Go, and preach this in your own voice. Tell someone about the Messiah. Better yet, act it out in everything you say, think, and do. Be the light in the darkness of somebody’s Christmas, and rejoice.

Lights in the Darkness by Suzanne Wrenn