Into the Darkness

3 12 2009

Seasonal affective disorder is a real bugger, isn’t it?  The days keep getting shorter, and it’s like the world has been captured in darkness.   What would we do all evening without artificial lighting?  Imagine sitting in a tent in the middle of the wilderness without a fire, a flashlight or the means to achieve either.  I’ve been there. When the sun goes down, your day is over, whether you’re ready or not.  On a cloudy moonless night, it means not being able to stray more than a few feet from the tent, for fear of never making your way back.  When the local wildlife come calling, there is no means for seeing them, and little recourse for warding them off.  You stumble around like a blind man, doing everything by touch.  The darkness is cold, even if it’s only in your mind.  The darkness is a prison without walls.

I find it fitting that the Christmas season lands near the shortest day of the year.  It’s no coincidence, really.  Missionaries used the pagan festivities to introduce their story about how God’s light once came into a world of darkness.  They told their stories around the fire, surrounded by darkness.  In the midst of this darkest month, we find the happiest of holidays.  For some, it is a time of hopelessness and despair, as the darkness wins in the minds of many, driving some of them even to suicide.  For others this time is romantic, a month of childhood wonder relived.  I find this dynamic to be quite inspiring.  December is the month where joy battles fear, where darkness dodges the stabbing thrusts of light, reaching out from the Christmas tree, the decorated houses, the nativity scenes, the Christ, himself.  This is where hot meets cold, where we sink or swim.

Without Christmas, there would be only seasonal affective disorder, devoid of any competing influence.  Without it, there would only be darkness and cold.

Without Christ, there would only be mortality without hope.  Without God, there would be life without meaning or purpose.  Over two millenniums ago, a light pierced our darkness, light like finding that flashlight in the inky dakness, illuminating our way.  We squint and peer.  At first, we cannot even make sense of what we see, stabbing at our eyes like daggers.  At first, we might shield ourselves from the unpleasant blaze.  For some, it illuminates our nakedness.  We may run and hide.  We may curse the one who directs it at us.  For others, it is a welcome comfort.  The walls of darkness retreat into the night, and our universe expands.  The light frees us from our prison.  We know what the future holds, because we can see it.  This light shines out to the horizon and beyond.

Now, the darkness serves to accentuate by contrast the value of the light.  We gather round that fire and sing our songs.  We praise God for that light.  It came into the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it, could not fight against it.  It was not a competing force.  It could not produce a flashdark.  It could not light a dark fire.  All it could do was sit there like a great empty weakness and be filled with the enormity of God’s providence.

People cursed that light, for it exposed their sin.  They rejected the comfort of the light and clothed their nakedness in the darkness.  They will not come into that warm glow.  They will not see and be seen, for they do what they would rather leave undisclosed.  Only those who do what’s right come into that light, so that the world can see what they do, things that they could only do through the aid of that light.

In this darkness, there is hope.  In this cold there comes a warmth.  This month we celebrate that pivotal man known as Jesus, light of the world, the word of God become flesh.

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