Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Hope

I scan the headlines. Word begins to filter in. A virus in China. It is spreading. People are dying. It is far away. But … then it is not. Pandemic, coronavirus, quarantine… who would have thought those words would be in my 6-year-old grandson’s vocabulary. People around the world die. We are in lockdown. We have been exposed. We quarantine. People we know are getting sick. People we know die. Governments plan and pass mandates. A tiny little virus. Not even the most powerful governments on earth can stop it. People lose jobs. Businesses are destroyed. Conflict erupts. “Our rights are being stripped from us!” “You don’t care about people!” One day I wear a mask into a store. No one else is wearing one. I think people are looking at me. I hear their unvoiced accusations, “You are a political liberal. You don’t care about freedom. You live your life controlled by fear.” A little piece of cloth that says so much and draws such lines. Disease that disrupts and destroys. Sorrow and loss. Human hearts exposed. Such darkness.

I scan the headlines. Senseless killing. Mob violence spreads across the nation. I read of riots in Toledo and Columbus. My children live there. I fight the urge to call them and say, “Don’t go out! Stay home. It’s not safe.” My friend calls. She is a home health nurse in Peoria. She works in the evenings. She has been sent home early. It’s too dangerous to be out. I run to the grocery store. On the door hangs a handwritten sign, “Closing early due to civil unrest.” Civil unrest? In Washington, Illinois? I look around. Everything looks ok, but inside I feel uneasy. My safe world suddenly seems not quite so safe. Death and destruction and lawlessness to fight death and destruction and lawlessness. Such darkness.

I sit in the counseling room. I listen. Stories of loss and heartache tumble out. Broken relationships that seem beyond hope. Questions about God? Who is He? Where was He? How can I find Him? I listen. Struggles common to us all pour out. “I am anxious. I am fearful. I struggle with anger. I don’t know how to change.” I listen. Faltering words whisper accounts of betrayal and brokenness. A lump grows in my throat. I hold back tears. Unspeakable evil. Those called to love harm. The strong crush the weak. The powerful exploit those they are called to serve. Such darkness.

I stand looking in the mirror. My heart is exposed. Self-deception gives way to clarity (James 1:23-24). I cringe at what I see. Pride and self-reliance thread their insidious tentacles everywhere. Self-righteous judgment. Why can’t other people just do things like I do? Anger at those who get in the way of my kingdom. Anxiety. Lord, prove that You are worthy of my trust – again! Prove that You really love me. You gave your Beloved Son for me but that is not enough! Give me what I want right now! Anger, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, jealousy, self-indulgence, pride – all the things that have brought heartache and suffering to millions, all the things that have destroyed families and nations down through the ages – they are all inside of me. Such darkness. 

But amid the darkness, came that first Christmas. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has shone the light.” (Isa. 9: 2). Yes, we live surrounded by darkness around us and within us, but the light of the world has come into the world. God himself came to dwell with His people. The God who is near (Ps. 119:151) has come nearer. Jesus, the light of the world, walked among his people. He suffered the pains and temptations of life in this fallen world. He triumphed over them. He walked through them all trusting his Father perfectly. Then He died and rose again conquering sin, Satan, and death. The kingdom of light prevailed over the kingdom of darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Yes, sometimes the darkness does seem overwhelming. We can feel hopeless to overcome our own spiritual darkness, but when that happens ponder again what Christ has done. “For God, who said. “Let the light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Think of it! We are no longer blind men walking in darkness, clueless about what is most valuable in life. God has opened our eyes to see the beauty and value of Jesus. Yes, we still sin, but we can see Jesus, and He has begun the process of bring many sons to glory. “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Prov.4:18).” The light in us may seem to be only a tiny spark at times, but we will shine brighter and brighter as the Father makes us more like Christ. He will complete His work in us.

Yes, sometimes the darkness does seem overwhelming. From our vantage point, it looks like Satan’s kingdom and the world are prevailing. When it looks this way, ponder again who Christ is. He is the triumphant, conquering King. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). He has won the war with darkness. He cannot fail. With every soul that turns to Him for mercy, his kingdom is advancing. With every act of kindness or forgiveness or grace of mercy, we push back against the darkness around us, and His light spreads. Every time we hold back our feet from evil, every time we resist temptation, and every time we put on righteousness, we fight back against the darkness. His unstoppable light penetrates the darkness, and our king will not stop until His light fills every nook and cranny of His universe.  

So today, amidst of the darkness, we fight on. We pick up the weapons of righteousness, and we follow confidently in the footsteps of our conquering King. We trust in our God. “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on His God. (Isa. 50:10). Our situations may seem dark, and our hearts may struggle with darkness, but our God has clearly revealed Himself to us through His Word and through His Son. He has clearly revealed to us in his written word the path forward through the darkness (Ps. 119:105, 130). We fight on with hope, for our Savior has promised a coming day when there will be no more tears or sorrow or sin or pain or suffering. We will dwell with our Savior and “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. 22:5). Darkness will be no more - forever.

So, this Christmas, rejoice for the Light of the World has come!

Kim Anderson

No comments:

Post a Comment