Among my favorite things about the Christmas season are the lights – hung on trees, fastened on light posts, strung on banisters and rooftops and storefronts. There is a quiet elegance to tiny bulbs illuminating chilly evenings and grey, winter landscapes. Anticipation fills the stillness, and as I drive home a gentle comfort whispers that perhaps the darkness is not quite so deep as usual tonight.
Even such small lights can bring hope. But the joy they proclaim comes and goes so quickly – soon Christmas will be over, we will grow tired of the decorations, and the lights will be put back in boxes where they will dance themselves into preposterous knots and inconceivable tangles over the next eleven months.
Perhaps they bring no joy at all. At times the lights act as mirrors, surrounding us with visible reminders of our emptiness, loneliness, or fear, or causing us to reflect on memories we would rather bury deep inside, and so the season of hope only serves to bring us one step closer to the outer edge of hopelessness. Perhaps it is all too much.
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).
Jesus, the King of Kings, was enthroned in splendor and shining with unimaginable light and glory – as our eyes cannot gaze at the sun, so no person could look upon Him in the fullness of His radiance. Even so, He did not consider it all a thing to be grasped, but rather “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Even the bright star that led the wise men to His cradle must have seemed, though beautiful, yet in comparison as common as those lights we string in celebration each December.
The world was dark, and still the Lord entered it, not to save glorious angels or the host of heaven, but to redeem us who were in the darkness, walking in the darkness, and clueless as to where we were going because the darkness had made us blind (1 John 2:11). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Because of His mercy and love, God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). He came, not so that we could celebrate for a day, or even a season, but that we should rejoice with Him for all eternity.
As His followers, we ought to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). But how did He walk? How did He who knew infinite light submit Himself to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Even in our world of darkness, He walked in the Light. Jesus is Light, but He is also in the Light (1 John 1:7). He chose to abide in the Light, to make the Light His dwelling place, even in a world in which He had no place to rest His head. His unity with the Father and the Spirit was His source of light, a Light that could not be dimmed even by the power of death. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
I know what it is like to have Christmases that are anything but merry, when carols are replaced by crying and panic seems to overpower the tidings of comfort and joy. If you are in that season, please keep holding on; but don’t just hold on, hold on to God. He is holding on to you. When He feels far off, know for sure that He is near. Though you fall, you shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds your hand (Psalm 37:24). Remember, His ultimate design is to wipe away all of your tears; for now, trust that He keeps each one in a bottle, close to His heart. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). And yes, there is a morning. If necessary, there is a night, but there is always a morning.
“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of His servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10). He is good, and even when we cannot understand, He is worthy of our trust. Abide in His Light. He is the God of the poor, the mourning, the destitute. Jesus, who was honored with costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh many years ago is pleased to receive from us a broken spirit and a contrite heart. When we have no great riches or beautiful words to lift up to Him, let it be our joy and worship to lay down our cares, our fears, and our sadness at His feet.
This Christmas, whether surrounded by twinkling lights or somber shadows, let us look with eyes of faith on the One who is our Light, our everlasting, ever-satisfying, and all-sufficient Light. The night is not so deep as it once was, for “light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).