The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Is. 9:2a)
We live in the twilight, in a land of uncertain shadows and pockets of night. As the partial light shifts, so do our perceptions. Our searching feet grope for the path ahead; our fumbling hands fail us; we struggle to recognize friend from foe. We need a light that will not go out.
In a world where fire was the only defense against darkness, our ancestors worshiped the stars. Those ghostly, inexplicable lights in the sky represented warmth, sight, travel, food, in short: life. To the ancients, the stars revealed signs and omens, activity in the heavenly realm which directed the earth below. Consider the tides, magnetic fields, asteroids and eclipses which show us they were not altogether wrong. And when an image was wanted to describe the brightness of an angel who fell from grace, he was likened to a star (Is. 14:12). But that so-called “son of the dawn” brought only more darkness as he tumbled to earth.
But at Christmas time we remember that God placed a brilliant star in the heavenly night to announce the coming of the Light of the world (John 8:12). That glorious star was a portent, as of a god or a god-man, the promise of a greater light to come. Very few recognized its significance and perhaps fewer still walked its rays to find the source of its secret: a baby in a manger who is called the bright, morning star (Rev. 22:16). In this case “morning star” means the sun, the brightest star in our sky, a symbol for God Himself (Ps. 84:11). He came to help us see the world as it is, to see one another in love and to illuminate His Father, the God of creation and redemption.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that even now we see only dimly. The light of God is shrouded by the clouds of our atmosphere. The broken pieces of the world refract its brilliance, creating the shadows we fear. But a day has been promised to us when the shadows shall all flee, when our confusion shall be at an end, when no fire or moon or physical sun will be needed because there will be no more darkness (Rev. 22:5). We hold in our hands the lamp of God’s word which shines its rays into the circle of our existence, but even that flame is a temporary measure.
When you watch the lights twinkle on your Christmas tree or your neighbor’s shrubbery, when you admire all the stars decorating the cards in your mailbox, when you notice that streak of glory riding high over every nativity scene this holiday season, remember that it is a flickering reminder of the true light which came into the world two thousand years ago and will come once again. Be comforted and encouraged until the day dawns and the morning star rises (2 Peter 1:19) in all its final, celestial glory.
Let us, with the humble shepherds and prescient wise men, come to Him this Christmas – and SEE.
If this time of year is difficult for you, see our help-for-the-holidays handout.