A Light Has Dawned
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death
a light has dawned."
I promised myself this year would be different. This would be the Christmas I would begin to lay down foundations of tradition with my boys. This would be the Christmas I would search for, learn and share the hidden treasures that lie behind the miracle of the birth of Jesus. This Christmas I would not be scathed by the insatiably consumer driven and misdirected revelry that increasingly seeks to eradicate Christ from Christmas to make it a time of mis-prioritized sentiment and attention towards friends and family redeemed by the biggest and best presents that credit card debt cannot afford.
And so, I made the tough decision to fast from Netflix and use all that new found “free” time to inhale books like Tim Keller’s “Hidden Christmas” and Paul David Tripp’s “Come Let Us Adore Him”. I committed to teach Isaiah 9:1-7 to my middle and high school students as we celebrate Advent and to power through N.T. Wright’s “The Day The Revolution Began” if it killed me. However, in a matter of days, much like my promise to wake up early to work out with my wife; I could see the end of the beginning of my latest undertaking was hastening its way into my heart. Whereas the inevitable demise of my pursuit of obtaining a “beach body” came at the hands of my unrivaled laziness, this hindrance was being ushered in aggressively by a rolling fog of darkness.
This darkness manifested itself in frustration, anger and impulsivity as I felt like a ten year friendship was being reduced to smoldering ash inside of three days. Old wounds seem as if they never heal and with fresh eyes on old scars a morbid curiosity arose to ponder whether those evidential scars would ever fade at all. I freely accept my role in the fray and while I can accept that an alternate ending was highly improbable, it doesn’t change that I am hurt. In any conflict there are separate truths and then there is THE truth. My pain lies in the longing for vindication; even when my pride wants to assure me I am not even partially at fault for what took place.
What really bothers me is how well I am failing at pretending I have my emotions in check. I mean, I’m not dead inside, but I’m not a romantic comedy ugly cry kinda guy either. But as I write this, I have the emotional disposition of a bald shaved Britney Spears (too soon?)!! And yes, I know how the book of Genesis ends with Joseph releasing his brothers from guilt and shame with the best exoneration ever, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”1 And yes, I do believe that God’s providence works for all those who love Him and seek to do His will and so I know that all parties involved are going to be just fine, but still…
The cyclone that is creating the end of the beginning seems to be gaining momentum and magnitude with my irrational impatience for my three boys and their normal standard of lunacy, and with the news clip I read a couple days ago about more and more colleges working arduously to remove religion from the Christmas celebration (so sad, it’s hilarious and so absurd, it’s really true!), and the financial burdens at home and with the ministry and yada, yada, yada. I could go on and on and the truth is you and I could probably get together to suck down a few vente whatevers at Starbucks and cry on each other’s shoulders while shaking our fists at the purveyors of our injustice and then try to convince each other that everything will be alright.
What I will do instead is share how God had already claimed victory over this sordid ordeal before it even began. I am sure we can all agree this “darkness” is not exclusive to this time of year. Sometimes we view the darkness as a trial and believe God is working to test and strengthen our faith. Other times we view it as tribulation with a surety the devil is out to get us. Sometimes we are victims, but if we’re honest with ourselves we can agree we often find ourselves meandering in the darkness by our own hand. However it presents itself is of little consequence, because ultimately as Christians we are expected to lean on God to persevere so when the dust settles we can find ourselves slo-mo strolling out of the rubble with a faith that is stronger than when we walked in.
You gotta walk in with ammo, tho’.
And that’s what happened to me, quite literally. Remember my commitment to teaching Isaiah 9:1-7? Well, the second verse was the focus of my teaching on HOPE, the celebration of the first week of Advent and it reads, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”2 Cool, huh? The entire time I spent dissecting this verse to make it relevant to my students, God, in His graciousness, was subtilely loading me up with the ammunition I was going to need to fight off the self-pity, self-doubt and self-loathing that would invade my soul and spirit in a few days. It might have taken three days to battle, but hey, better late than not at all, right?
Darkness is not the oppressor of light, rather it is the absence of it. It is not the thief of morality, rather it is the absence of wisdom. It is not the catalyst of sin, rather it is the absence of forgiveness. And so with a new found perspective of my current situation I decided to start a blog. Just kidding. No, I'm totally serious, but that’s not the point. The point is I needed this verse to remind me I will not be a slave to my circumstances, rather I will rise above them. I will not live in regret, rather I will learn from my mistakes. I will not be marred by anger or shame, rather I will be willing to both give and seek forgiveness.
We can't be afraid of the dark. Darkness affords a means for us to find a deeper appreciation for the light. It is because of the dark we celebrate Immanuel, that God is with us, and that he came to "save His people from their sins."3 And that, my friends, is good news for us all. So you see, I guess everything is going to be alright after all.
Thanks for listening and oh yeah, Merry Christmas!!
For His glory!
1 Genesis 50:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
2 Isaiah 9:2 New International Version (NIV84)
3 Matthew 1:21 English Standard Version (ESV)