“The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness.” Isaiah 9:2 NET
I rarely see bright-eyed children in Christmas dresses and or plaid vests singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in a Sunday school program. The somber tone hardly seems appropriate for the joy of a children's Christmas pageant. This advent hymn focuses on a somber, troubled world waiting for the Messiah.
Advent used to have little meaning for me, as a child. Instead, I looked forward to spreading buttercream frosting on Christmas cookies, singing “Silver Bells,” decorating a fragrant Douglas fir and opening crimson foil-wrapped gifts.
But red foil and sugar cookies couldn’t be further from the world Jesus entered. He put on a human body and was pushed out of a birth canal to enter a murky world where the Jewish people longed for a Messiah. They lived among self-interested civil authorities and Roman soldiers who unsympathetically kept order and innkeepers with no room for a pregnant woman.
Our world can seem just as dark at times.
My long-time friend battles cancer and got a bad report from her doctor this month. Another friend faced a medical emergency last month.
One of my refugee friends searched for an apartment this morning. Her family is now tentatively putting down roots, but over 65 million men women and children are displaced elsewhere. And countries around the world don’t welcome nearly enough of them.
On the governmental stage, leaders vie for control in many countries, often sacrificing justice and integrity for power.
When I focus on these things, I feel troubled. I want to yell, “Somebody, turn on the lights,” but when events in my life, community or world are dark, I can better appreciate the advent season. I am getting a glimpse of a world longing for Light.
Not only that, our world is not as dark as the world Jesus entered because each follower of Jesus bears the light of life. (John 8:12) So my sick friends are experiencing the care of friends and family and the encouragement of many from their church family. My refugee friends have help and encouragement from believers in their community. Believers are involved in refugee care around the world and in the civil arena, some Christ-followers advocate for mercy and integrity over power.
So this advent, let’s wait for the promised Babe, but let’s also be Light-bearers before our friends and neighbors and in our communities. The world is only dark if we hide our light.
“People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:15-16