Light in the Darkness
We’ve been dealt a December like no other, and my thoughts and prayers are with those of you who are picking up the pieces of your plans and are trying to shape them into something joyful.
Two Decembers ago, our new born baby was recovering from open heart surgery, following a diagnosis of major heart defects. Stranded in a hospital many miles away was so far from the cosy Christmas I had been anticipating; we were desperate to take Leon home.
Our dark Decembers reflect another advent hundreds of years ago, where there was loss and the pain of disappointment.
Here's a little delve into history to set the context:
The faith of the Jews, our spiritual ancestors, hinged mainly on the voices of the Prophets. God would speak to an individual, His ‘mouthpiece’, and they would deliver his message to the people. It was through these prophecies that the Jews recognised God's presence and leading.
Those that were most significant to the Jewish people were the 'Messianic Prophecies', and here's why:
The Jews have a turbulent history. They were constantly battling neighbouring nations, getting invaded and exiled, suffering some pretty immoral kings and committing some huge fails in idolatry. ALL THEIR HOPE for being saved and delivered was in a Messiah. The prophecies indicated that he would be a King and a Warrior who would lead armies to drive out their enemies. And with the arrival of the Messiah, here's what the Jewish people were anticipating: the end of war, total peace to reign upon the earth, an era of moral purity, and God's Spirit poured out on everyone. Not to mention the many blessings promised to Israel.
Now here’s the important bit:
The Messianic Prophecies began in Genesis and spanned the Old Testament, concluding in Malachi, which was written 400 years BEFORE Jesus was born. So far, the Jews have anticipated the coming Messiah for 1400 years. (And I can barely wait for my toast to pop.)
What’s more, from Malachi no new prophets were raised up to perform miraculous signs or speak the word of God. For 400 years, prophecies ceased, and there was silence over the nation.
On top of the waiting and the silence, Israel lived most of this time under foreign occupation. Long years of oppression, persecution, enforced idolatry and loss of cultural identity. The dark ages for the Jewish people. Can you imagine hanging on to those promises of a saviour for 1400 years, with diminishing evidence of God’s presence? Most, probably drowned in disappointment, doubt and disillusionment; the shame of failure and the bitterness of hope deferred.
Into this context of emptiness and sorrow, this verse speaks:
'The people walking in darkness have seen a GREAT LIGHT; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'
Isaiah 9: 2,6.
At long last, whispered rumours of a baby Messiah born. Shepherd’s talking. A flame reignited. A glimpse of promises fulfilled.
Walking through advent means remembering this journey, from despair to hope. It was into emptiness and shadow that the Messiah came. It was into shoddy circumstances and a stable that a baby was born.
Charles Wesley nailed it when he wrote the words:
Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
May you experience His light entering the disappointments and the dark places this Christmas.