This has been a divisive year. Lines have been drawn and ugliness has risen to the surface in many places. Sometimes the darkness feels all too strong.
Jesus understands that kind of world.
When he entered it, the Jewish people had endured 400 years of silence from God. They lived under the oppressive rule of Rome. Soldiers walked the streets. Riots were not uncommon. Even within Judaism, there was division, as four sects fought for control. Shortly after he was born, Jesus and his family were forced to flee to a new country to avoid Herod’s massacre of children under 2. Dark times, indeed.
The Jews wanted someone to take away the darkness. They wanted a Savior, but their idea of how they would be saved and from what was misguided. Jesus didn’t come as a military or political leader. He didn’t free them from Rome. He wasn’t about conforming governments to his will. He didn’t erase dividing lines between people. He didn’t make everything easy, or pave a straight, conflict free path for us. He didn’t eradicate evil. Instead, he shone a light into it.
He was light in the darkness.
That light sets hearts free. He stepped into the darkness to make room for joy, peace, hope, mercy and grace. His light was life and love, come into the world, to transform us, rather than transforming our worlds to suit us.
We are not called to look at the darkness and be afraid. We are not meant to see it and complain and argue about what it all means. We don’t shake our heads and give up. We don’t wring our hands in despair.
We turn on the light.
We move into the world as people who know joy, peace, hope, grace, mercy, and above all, love. This is what we are about. We are about shining his light brighter and brighter. So this Christmas season, how can we remember to shine his light in the world?
We shine the light of hope. Our hope is in a person, not an outcome. We do not hope in government. We do not hope in society conforming to our standards. We hope in what he can do. We hope in what will be.
We shine the light of peace. Peace is not merely an emotion, but a state of reconciliation brought about through him. So where there is division and unrest, we speak peace. In the midst of chaos, we breathe peace.
We shine the light of joy. He gives us joy beyond circumstances, the joy of knowing him and being loved by him. That joy ought to show on our faces, in our spirits, in how we move through this world.
We shine the light of mercy and grace. Jesus came for the outcast, the downtrodden, the poor, weak and weary. We declare that the gospel is for the ragamuffin, for those who are not too proud to receive what they need. That starts with recognizing we are counted among the needy.
We shine the light of love. Most of all, the light that shines in the darkness declares that love overcomes. It overcomes the darkness in our hearts and opens the door for us to receive all that he offers us. Christmas is God’s shout of love to the world, a shout that makes the darkness flee. Let’s simmer in this reality long enough for it to show up in our actions, in our words.
Yes, the world is dark, but we know the light.
This Christmas, let’s seek ways to make the light brighter in what we say, how we treat others, how we make room for them, where we look for life. Let us be people who reflect the light to a dark world.
“for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves.” Colossians 1:13