It is December and there are sparkling lights and upbeat Christmas songs with bells keeping time. They tell us to wrap it up, put a bow on it: be merry and bright. It’s a time to gather with family, to enjoy traditions and show our love in tangible ways, bestowing gifts of fun and fancy.
It is dark, here. There is unspeakable sadness in this world. There is heartache every day, and injustices this wide world over. People are starving, dying of sickness, fighting in wars, losing to slavery, alone on the streets, victims of violence. Today, it is the school shooting in Connecticut. Children killed. This darkness can weigh heavy on my heart, on my mind. I try to twist the story lines into something that makes sense, and I end up turning mental gymnastics because here’s the thing: it doesn’t make sense. Long lay this world, in sin and error pining.
It is dark.
“The people walking 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).
In this epic true life fairy tale, the battle has already been won. Good will always win. Light has overcome darkness. On this quiet night, years ago, Light himself was born into this dark world – Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. The truth was proclaimed: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). And the angels sang Glory to God, and the shepherds were invited into the mystery and then told their story. Kings fell on their knees, offering gifts with worship.
Sometimes it’s the mere melancholy that the longest night brings. Sometimes its this longest night that has lasted years. Sure, Christmas can be about family, traditions, even the good work of giving. And family is good – until it isn’t anymore. Tradition works, until it doesn’t anymore. Celebration, joyous music, good food, presents — it’s all good, until it’s not. If all your hope is in family, if all your joy is in the twinkling lights, if it’s all held together by tradition – then what do you do when you lose family? When there are no more twinkling lights? Or when it just can’t be held together anymore? This darkness, it’s wearisome.
For yonder breaks, a new a glorious morn.
The story is not over. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We have this hope, He gives us His peace – that when there is suffering, when there is heartache and tragedy, and our eyes can’t see the light – we know that the Light sees us. Emmanuel, God with us. In the darkness of despair, He is right beside us. We can know His light, hold it out to each other. So we pray. We hold hands. We make meals.
No more let sin or sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. Today, amidst the unspeakable, we speak. Our large world seems small as we come together to bear witness to the pain in the shooting. We honor the stories of those who are living this. Today, “we weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). God with us, grieving alongside us. He comes to make His blessings known, far as the curse is found.
We share the stories of the brokenness within each of our lives, taking turns walking for one another. We sit in the sadness together, we cry together. This night, we come alongside my mother-in-law, grieving through her first Christmas without her husband. We cannot replace her sadness, but we fill her house with something else: this food and kids and laughter – it is light. It is in this darkness that He became Light. Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. In this world, we offer grace and love to all, and coats and shoes to those without. We are the peacemakers, blessed.
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices. Oh, night divine.
And yet – in Him there is no darkness.