"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)
A friend of mine has an only son who has a degenerative muscle disease. Lately, it has progressed, to the point where he cannot walk. He lives alone in a townhouse, dragging himself up the stairs and around the apartment. It's all the more worse because he has known what it was to drive, to walk, to be ambulatory and free. Bad enough, but then he recently found out he has diabetes. He is very weak. He has moved from his townhouse temporarily, maybe permanently, into a home with his parents, who are also not in the best of health. He has been despondent, and he said that at one point he was ready to die, but then stopped thinking that because he knew it was a thought that would "hurt" God. This is dark.
I read today of one woman, her husband, and her young child who lived until recently in Baghdad, a fearful place. It was a poignant story, full of sadness for the loss of home and family and country. I appreciated that she had no political points to score, assessed no specific blame. It was a simple recordation of her life and her leaving of her country. But it was a sad story of a neighborhood, city, and country being torn apart by strife. This was dark.
Every day it seems I fail my children. I act selfishly or in a petty manner. I say things to them that would be impolite to say to another person. I fail to encourage when I should. I am physically present but sometimes far away in thought, not mindful of the soul that stands in front of me. This too is dark.
And yet it need not be so specific. Some mornings (thank God not often) I drive to work and feel a great heaviness on me, a great sadness settle over me for all the sin and strife and turmoil and brokenness that is all around me. I hobble into work, just trying to keep my eyes ahead, remembering "Blessed are they that mourn, for. . . " for what? "For they shall be comforted." As I understand this beatitude, Jesus is commending mourning for sin, knowing and feeling some of what He felt, his sorrow over Jerusalem. (Lk 13:34-35). This too is dark.
This too is Advent. Darkness must be a part of Advent, this waiting on Light, waiting on God to be revealed, waiting ultimately for his complete salvation, our deliverance from darkness, for a time when we live always in the Light. Now, we walk in shadows with death before us. To really celebrate the coming of Christ, we have to walk in these shadows but with our eyes on Jesus. I know all is not well, that even the happiness and pleasantness I sometimes know is ephemeral, and yet I know that joy is rooted in Christ, in a Light that will one day dispel darkness once and for all. Matthew Henry says of Isaiah 9:2 that "[w]hen the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes, a great light, a shining light, which will shine more and more. It should be welcome to us, as light is to those that sit in darkness, and we should readily entertain it, both because if is of such sovereign use to us and because it brings its own evidence with it. Truly this light is sweet."
More light, please.