God in the Dark

By Ryan Sanders

Sunday night, our family dusted off an old Advent devotional from the IBC Children’s Ministry. Following its instructions, we turned off all the lights, gathered around one candle at our kitchen table, and contemplated its meaning.

When you’re sitting in the dark, one little light makes all the difference. It changes what you can see, but it also changes things you can’t see. When light pierces darkness, more resonates than just electromagnetic waves. All of the values we celebrate at Christmas flicker in the flame of a candle: light, warmth, hope, joy, clarity, peace.

Have you ever wondered why Christmas seems to be a nighttime event? Wouldn’t morning have been a more apt metaphor? What if we sang “Jubilant Morn” instead of “Silent Night”? Or “Oh holy sunrise, the dawn is brightly shining”? Assuming the sovereign God of the universe chose what time Mary’s labor ended, why did he choose to be born in darkness? I think it’s because Jesus’ birth is meant to carry the candle’s message.

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. (Isaiah 9:2)

Light means more to us when we find ourselves in darkness, and we certainly find ourselves there now: terrorism, race riots, human trafficking, human tissue trafficking, income inequality, shootings, injustices of every stripe. The night seems to grow always darker around us. It nurtures fear. It undercuts joy. It shatters peace. God’s people awaiting Messiah under first century Roman occupation may not have been any more familiar with the dark than we are today. We seem to be a people walking in darkness, living in the land of the shadow of death.

What could be more beautiful — more hopeful — for such a people than light? Like the candle at our kitchen table, the Light of Bethlehem pushes back darkness, glows with warmth, promises hope, and lights the way to peace. The God we worship does not distract us from the darkness with trinkets. He does not deny the darkness with mind tricks. He does not shout at the darkness with tantrums. He enters the darkness in silence and shines in holiness until all is calm and bright. He becomes God in the Dark.

What the world needs most is not better presidential candidates or UN peacekeepers or simpler tax laws. Those are all good, but they aren’t light. What people in darkness need most is light. What the world needs most is a God who loves us enough to bring light to our dark days. This is the reason Jesus’ birth was marked by a star. This is the reason he is the Light of the World. This is the reason we hang Christmas lights and hold candlelight services.

This year, I hope the Light means more to us, and I hope it shines on those around us. May every flickering candle and twinkling bulb remind us of the God in the Dark. And may our dark days be merry and bright.

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