We are in a season of darkness.
The sun sets early at this time of year. Painfully early. Before we’re even gathered around the dinner table, the day has lost its light – not to come again until well into the next morning. The memory of those summer nights in June and July when the light lingered, those days in the year when sun kissed your cheek at the start of each morning, these are replaced by the December shadows, the month that holds the darkest day of the year.
Our encounter with darkness is not merely a lack of sunshine. The darkness is protruding into our hearts and the lives we live. The darkness is taking hold of our days. Failures, losses, mistakes and struggles seem to wrap their hands around our souls and suffocate all the hope, all the light that was once there. Grief, sorrow, guilt, burdens too great to bear. The darkness is overcoming. The “fa-la-las” and “season’s greetings” heard around us seem a mockery to the all-encompassing shadow that seems to consume. How dare songs be sung about cups of cheer and all being merry and bright when we can barely make our way through the day?
If, for a minute, you may think this is an overdramatic description of this season, recall with me those who have lost loved ones this year to diseases, tragic accidents, or suicides. Remember those who have faced the loss of all they know – their homelands, their lifestyle they once lived. Recall the malice that we have encountered – of intentional killing, of heartless abandonment, of parents who don’t recognize the humanity of their own children, and spouses who crush the hearts of those who have pledged their endless love to them. Think of the disasters out of our control – the earthquakes and tornados and floods and hurricanes that strip away homes and security. And think of the darkness in your own heart. The unceasing depression, the addiction to sin, the anxiety that racks us with fear, the insecurity that leaves us groping for something to hold on to.
We are in a season of darkness. The night is here. We stumble. We are desperate for a light.
This same darkness enveloped the world two thousand years ago. Perhaps the circumstances were different, but the same shadow had covered the people of that time like it does today. They were aching for relief, longing for the fulfillment of a promise given long ago. Hoping beyond hope that, here in the most dismal hour, a light might shine. Praying that there might possibly, just maybe, be something of pure goodness on this night of pure darkness.
And just then, in the blackest of nights, a star began to twinkle over a stable in Bethlehem. Light shone all around over a field of shepherds. The world once subject to groaning in pain and stumbling in darkness now knew hope. The light of the world had come.
This light is ours. We might be at our very worst, the world at its darkest place. We may be stumbling in the shadows – broken, bruised, injured. Even here this light is still ours.
The trite “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” once sung has been transformed into a magnificent thrill of joy as the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morning. The light is here, Christ has come, and no matter what we walk through, no matter the agony we encounter, nothing can separate us from this light.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For unto us a Child is born, to us a son is given.