The Radiance of Christmas Hope
Could we be any more stressed out? Probably. In the long view, we can’t be more troubled by crises in society than in Germany’s Weimar Republic, Quebec’s FLQ crisis, or the morning of September 11th in New York. There is no ‘turning back time to the good old days.’ But there is room for a lot more expectancy. We’re all looking for some hope, life, and light to dispel the gloom.
No doubt our situation is like the ancient lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, the land beyond the Jordan and even Galilee. They were described by the eighth century (BC) prophet Isaiah as “her who was in anguish” (Isaiah 9:1). There was even a sense of ‘gloom’ that had cast a shroud over the people. Isaiah had recorded that “they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (8:22). This is how you might feel after following a Twitter thread, reading a Facebook feed, or after a hard day’s work. Or worse: after a diagnosis, a death, or a disaster.
No gloomy life lost in confusing times and a confusing mind can contemplate a life of light. That is why depression and melancholy can be so debilitating. The idea of a life of clarity, purpose, joy, and laughter remains unimaginable to the one stuck in the anguish of gloom. Gloom and anguish choke our desires for truth, beauty and goodness. Our sin-collapsed nature makes our desires for God crumble to dust. None seeks for God—not one (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3).
Only the inbreaking of dawn gives hope to the gloomy who walk in darkness. That kind of inbreaking is what Isaiah prophesied would come to “the nations” (9:1). If the wonder of conversion is inexplicable, then the description of this ‘dawn’ is close to it:
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; You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with the joy of the harvest, they are glad when they divide the spoil” (Isaiah 9:2-3).
The great thing about the early light of dawn is its promise. Even though it can still be relatively dark out (especially on Canadian winter mornings), the inbreaking dawn assures us that the brightness of the day is coming.
Just as the Gentile nations were lifted from their gloom with the ministry of Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:15-16), we see God’s initiative to bring dawn to the darkened.
That is what our Advent celebrations should remind us about—the expectancy of the Light. John testified that “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9).
From that first dawning of the incarnation of the Son, adding to himself a human nature, he brought the light of the gospel to be witnessed by those in anguish and gloom.
In our stressed-out society and harried holiday confusion, we can relish the fact that Christ’s brilliance and warmth bring infinite lumens to sinners’ shroud of darkness. His inbreaking kingdom—the already of the not-yet—is pushing back the darkness, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
This Christmas we don’t have to let the presence of darkness, smother our expectancy of Christ’s radiance. Instead let us luxuriate in his light, knowing our joy is to look upon him by faith now, and ultimately by sight. For it was truly said, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”