“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
The stable falls silent and then—a cry. The thin cry of an infant, so welcome to waiting parents, to a laboring mother, who breathes a sigh of relief and falls back on her improvised pillow, laughing and weeping at once. As the father wraps the baby warmly and delivers him into Mary’s waiting arms, creation shares in her delight: the wait is over. The work is done. Emmanuel—God With Us—has come.
As we lit each candle on our Advent wreaths this season, we remembered the prophets, the town of Bethlehem, the shepherds, and the angels, all of whom were single lights pointing toward the great light, for “the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
The years chronicled in the Old Testament were tempered with pain: Adam and Eve felt it when they were banished from the garden. The Israelites felt it as they wandered, lost, on the doorstep of the Promised Land; as they were exiled; as prophet after prophet cried out against their sin, calling them to repentance. God’s people—his chosen people—turned against him repeatedly, favoring gods fashioned by their own hands, gods that dimmed their eyes and hardened their hearts, making the Israelites more and more like themselves with every sacrifice offered. Creation felt it. Blistered by drought, buckled by earthquakes, submerged by floods, the earth itself groaned under the weight of Adam’s sin, its cycles broken by creation’s disharmony with its Creator.
But in a manger outside Bethlehem, a light flickered into being, pushing back the darkness. In that one child, the cry of generations was answered, the promises of Scripture were fulfilled. Though his earthly life had just begun, Jesus’ presence on the earth lightened the darkness, lessened the pain—relief, at last, had come.
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone . . .
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be on his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2,6)
Jesus’ touch undid the wounds of the Curse, brought the dead back to life, mended the lame, gave sight to the blind. He bore it all—even the fatal blow of physical death and separation from God—to purchase our redemption.
But though our Creator lived and died and rose again from the dust of his own earth, creation still labors, “for we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22–23). Though death does not crush us, it still comes for us. Though sin does not hold us captive, it hinders us.
But he who lit the world sent his people—us—out to be lights, puncturing the darkness with his glory. To his disciples, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
We are his lights, laboring against the darkness under his guidance and crying out for the day when he will return and banish the night forever. We wait for that day with a holy impatience, when “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:4–5).
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