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Light in Darkness

By Steve Gregg

I don’t know about you, but for me the Advent season feels different this year. It’s not that we’re eating different treats or doing something out of the ordinary. It’s not even that I’ve learned some new historical fact about Jesus or his birth. It could be my age or the reality that Kim and I are entering a prolonged season of transitions with family and careers. I’m sure all these things play a part. But what is at the heart of this new weight that Christmas seems to be carrying for me is a deep-seated realization of just how much I need light in a dark world. I need to know that this light is not only from a powerful authority that knows what is going on, but one that cares about us, about me and mine. I have been struck again and again the past few weeks by how desperately we all need the truths that Christmas reminds us of.  

Light has entered the darkness: One of the traditions we have at Creekside is lighting a different candle on the Advent wreath each Sunday. This is a church tradition that has been observed for centuries, meant to give believers a vivid image of God’s light that has come into a dark world. The past two years have been a rollercoaster of one crisis after another with no clear resolution in view. The past few weeks of Advent have reminded me that we are not alone and that God has brought light into the darkness. He has not left us alone to shout into the void, to piece together meaning from the scraps around us, or to try to create meaning and purpose from chaos. He has come to show us that truth, grace, and mercy are not figments of our imaginations, but instead are foundational to God’s character, essential parts of our lives, and vital for a life of flourishing.

God has come to dwell with mankind: The light that came was ultimately not the heavenly hosts who announced the birth; it was God himself who came to dwell with us. We live in a time in which so many people are feeling hopeless because there seems to be no one to solve our most pressing problems. This leads many of us to either “check out” and ignore the issues and seek to find pleasure and comfort where we can, or it leads us to power up, get angry, and seek to bring about changes by the force of our wills. Neither of these offer any lasting resolution. Christmas reminds us that a God who is able to help, and cares enough to actually do so, is in fact very plausible. History tells us he has come to speak to the plight of you and me.

God’s glory shines brightest in humble sacrifice: The Christmas story is awash in paradoxes: a holy child miraculously born to parents who will carry an undeserved stigma from the unexpected birth; a child born into poverty is visited by foreign dignitaries bearing choice and priceless gifts. These paradoxes continue as the child grows and becomes a teacher, healer, and a prophet. His followers saw in him a political deliverer, but he refused to work according to their script or expectations. But he hadn’t come to show the glory of the Father through defeating armies or empires, because he hadn’t come to trim back evil, but to dig it up by the roots. He had come to do away with it once and for all. He came to defeat evil, injustice, and death itself, and he did it by laying down his life willingly, humbly, sacrificially.

The wonderful thing about Christmas is that the hope we sing about, the joy that we express, as good as it is, is in fact just the precursor to an even greater hope and joy that Jesus brought. We really do have reason to hope even in the midst of bad news. We have every reason to find joy even as events make it very clear we are not in control of events going on around us. Why? Because the one who is in control loves us, and he is working for his glory and for our good. Christmas is proof of that, and this year we especially need that reminder.  

Glory to the newborn King!!!