The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. Isaiah 9:2-3a
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:15-17
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Cor 4:6
Today I get to share with you my favorite verse in the Bible – Isaiah 9:2. Although not traditionally used at Christmas, I think it is the most fitting verse to describe Advent. Indeed, if I had to use just one verse to sum up the Bible and the story of God’s interaction with man, it would be this verse. “Light has dawned on those dwelling in darkness” Just reading it thrills my heart with joy. This evening I’ve found my own soul struggling with dark moods and I was feeling hypocritical knowing I would be writing about light while I was fighting with darkness. But reading those words again fills my heart with such hope and love for God that the darkness is slipping away and I find myself turning towards the light of God’s love. It’s the salvation story in microcosm; the act of eternity being played out in a single moment.
I love this collection of Scripture together. The first words that God speaks are “Let there be light” and these verses reveal that God’s presence brings light to the universe as well as to our hearts. The apostle John uses words similar to the original Creation account to describe the Advent. The implication is that the One who spoke the worlds into existence was now entering His creation to bring His light. Once His word spoke light; now His presence reveals it. Christ, as the embodiment of God’s light, initiates a new creation to recreate us in His image. The first step is to banish darkness from the human heart and fill it with His light.
This is captured in the passage from Matthew where, in fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy, Jesus starts preaching repentance to His followers. The words of Christ are light to our souls and His call to repentance is an invitation to turn from our darkness and move towards His light. It’s important to note where Jesus starts His ministry of reconciliation. Matthew tells us it’s exactly in the region prophesied by Isaiah (and he quotes it for emphasis) and it’s in Gentile territory. This was the term that Jews used to describe those who were not of their ancestry. There were many Jews in Jesus’ day that took pride in their heritage and assumed that God’s promises were exclusively for them. But Jesus takes up residence among the despised outsiders and gives His message of Good News to them. The life and death of Christ are for everyone. Christ draws all men to Himself and desires all to find true life in relationship with Him. Whether you feel you are a child of promise like the Jews or an overlooked outcast like the Gentiles, God comes for you. God’s family is a motley group of sinners from all backgrounds unified by a collective turning from darkness to face the light of God.
Paul address just such a diverse gathering in his letter to the Corinthian church. Made up of Gentiles and Jews, freemen and slaves, men and women, these believers were joined together on a journey after God. They stumbled and fell, they weren’t perfect, but they trusted the One who promised them His presence and salvation. He encourages these Christ-followers with a reminder that God has shined His light in their hearts. And this light allows us to see Christ in all His glory, gives us knowledge to trust our Savior, and hope that we will dwell in His eternal light and glory forever.
As we celebrate the season of light in the deep winter, let us rejoice that the light of Christ is shed in our hearts. No longer do we dwell in a land of darkness for Christ has come.
Blessings to you,