Dec 16 2014

Too Much Darkness

e_CES8771It sure does get dark early this time of year in western Kentucky.  That has been one of my major adjustments since moving here and finding myself in the Central Standard Time zone once again.  A lot of people in this area go to work in the dark and when they get off of work it’s already dark again.  Darkness arrives early and it makes the nights seem so very long.  I don’t like it.  It’s depressing.  It messes with my mind.  And for a few more days it’s only going to get worse.  But there’s the good news, it’s only for a few more days.  The winter solstice arrives next week and slowly, but surely, the hours of daylight will lengthen.

It is knowing that the long nights will not last forever that makes them endurable.  When you have hope of longer and brighter days to come you can bear the shorter and darker days.  That hope sustains you.  That hope sees you through.

DV-moonSuch thoughts seem appropriate during the Advent season.   This time of year we remember how long ago God’s people longed for the coming of a Savior and how the prophet Isaiah declared that one day things would be different.  He wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (9:2)  Ironically, it was a great light that led a group of Magi to the one born to be King of the Jews.  Later, when Jesus began his teaching ministry he announced “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  In so many ways Jesus did, in fact, bring light to the world.  During Advent we pause to remember how that light made its entrance.

TB-880Advent, however, is more than just a time for looking back and remembering.  It is also a time for looking ahead.  Before Jesus left this world he promised that he would one day return.  That has not happened yet but we live with the confidence and assurance that someday it will.  That is good news, especially in dark days like these.  And here, by dark days, I am not referring to the shortage of daylight.  All you have to do is watch or read the news and it becomes obvious that a deep darkness pervades much of the world.  Scores of innocent children are murdered while they are at school in Pakistan.  Various groups of people suffer regularly from racial injustice.  Thousands die each day from hunger and poverty related illnesses.  Violence raises its ugly head unrelentingly.  Climate change and pollution threaten the lives of millions.  Yes, there’s a lot of darkness out there.

The darkness around us will not last forever however.  A better day is coming.  In fact, there is a time approaching when there will be no more darkness.  That is something that we are promised in Revelation 21:25.  The one who is the Light of the world will prevail and his kingdom will one day be fully established.   In the meantime, followers of Jesus must never forget that he said we, too, are “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)  As long as darkness remains in this world we have work to do, we must let our light shine.  Until the Second Advent takes place we are charged to do all we can to dispel the darkness around us.  I need to be a light for you.  You need to be a light for me.  We need to be a light to all those around us.  It’s what the one born in Bethlehem is counting on us to do.  I pray we will not let him down.

–Chuck

(I took the images used above in New Mexico and California.)


Dec 21 2011

“A Light Has Dawned”

The winter solstice is once again upon us.  This is a day that has been celebrated for centuries.   The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  Once it passes the hours of daylight slowly begin to lengthen.  Ancient people found this as cause for celebration.  They were reminded each year at this time that darkness would not prevail.   Many people believe that Christmas came to be celebrated this time of year for the same reason.  We do not know for a fact what month Christ was born.  Some scholars believe it likely occurred in the spring rather than at the start of winter but the date of December 25 may well have been chosen to coincide with the winter solstice because the message of Christmas likewise declares that darkness will not prevail.

Long before Jesus came the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  This prophecy has been linked with Christ for centuries.  His coming brought light to the world, a light that darkness cannot extinguish.   Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world.”  (John 9:5)  Reflecting on Jesus the author of the Fourth Gospel said, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Darkness can be a scary thing both literally and figuratively.  We all know that darkness often conveys the idea of danger.  It can also be a metaphor for despair.  Darkness pretty much describes what life is like apart from Christ.  Without him things are gloomy.  Without Jesus there is little hope.  Without Christ we live in “the shadow of death.”  If I had to describe in one word what my life would be like apart from Jesus I could think of no more appropriate word than “darkness.”

As the winter solstice approaches and the celebration of Christmas draws near I give thanks that into this world of darkness “a light has dawned.”  I rejoice knowing that because of what God did that first Christmas long ago darkness does not have the final word.  Even though there is still plenty of darkness in the world I remain confident that this darkness will not prevail because that child born in Bethlehem truly was and is “the light of the world.”

–Chuck

(I took the top image of Skylight Cave in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  I took the bottom image at Sequoia National Park.)