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…
…For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end…
…from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
– [Isaiah 9:2, 6-7]
We live in a dark world.
I am forced to confront that reality most days.
In one sense it’s not a new revelation. In my childhood I was taught about it, warned of it, and read it in the Bible. I also saw scattered evidence of it, though never too much.
I knew it was a fallen world. I knew that the human heart was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. I knew that the human race sought wisdom without God, only to find foolishness. I knew that I and others were, by nature, dead in sin.
But I guess there is a difference between knowing something because you were told it, and knowing something because you have experienced it.
That is the difference between knowing at intellectual level, versus having the full reality of that knowledge run right through you, seizing your convictions and your very heart.
There are moments in life when you get a front-row seat to this awful reality; when you genuinely feel it, viscerally.
This job is one such front row seat.
I see a culture crying out for wisdom; for solutions to inequality, disadvantage, violence and oppression; for keys to happiness. But I see solutions which, though framed in seductive packaging, will certainly make it worse.
There is confusion everywhere – in schools, in churches, in politics, in families – and though the cry for clarity seems to be getting louder, the confusion continues.
I see a culture crying out for power to save; for the necessary political office, the transnational institution, the financial clout. Anything big enough to engineer solutions to our problems.
It is to these opportunities which so many young people now aspire. It is the people in these places in whom we have unrealistic hope and expectation.
But, like a carrot on a stick, the promises which accompany power and hierarchy are never obtained.
I see a culture grappling with its own mortality. Just how deeply does the belief that this is all we have – a blip in the matrix, from meaningless birth to meaningless death – affect the psyche?
We try to take some control over death to make it “meaningful” or “dignified.” We try to fill our fleeting youth with just one more experience or fast-bursting bubble of good feelings. We look to “make a difference” before vanishing away.
But perhaps most of all I see millions of Australians with no peace. Their psychologists are telling them to ignore their guilt – they can’t. Their dermatologists are telling them to hang on to youth – they can’t. Their lifestyles are geared to ensure they don’t think too much on God – but even the prodigal son in the pig pen couldn’t forget Him. The entertainment industry is telling them to numb their existence with alcohol, music, dance, sex, vanity, and travel… And still they are unhappy.
But ask any jeweller – diamonds appear most beautiful on dark backgrounds.
Light shines most brilliantly in darkness.
After another year in which the darkness of the world has been so clearly demonstrated, the light dawns on the eve of Christmas with brilliance and wonder.
For, “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.”
For the Christian, every moment of realism; every day in this world is lit up by the Biblical phrase, “but God…” It is the light of hope – real hope – which has shone upon us and which shines in the world still. It is the light which shines apart from this world, from outside the system, from God’s divine intervention, cutting through the blackest midnight which has held us ever since the fall.
It is the light of God in Christ.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”
A most unlikely an unusual light. Not a transnational seat of power, a sage or intellect produced in the word’s institutions, not one endowed with the power of nations, nor even one given a privileged life.
But the light which dawns in darkness, like sunrise in a deep, dark valley, is a child.
To the world, this is foolishness. Yet in God’s economy, this child is His promised fulfillment of the deepest needs of every man woman and child. He came for us.
For us, He is the Wonderful Counsellor; the wisdom after which people grasp without knowing it; the wisdom they seek, but invariably prefer counterfeits. His counsel is wonderful, because it is the answer we never could have imagined; it leaves us in awe and wonder.
“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” [Col 2:3]
For us, He is the Mighty God; the One invested with all power to break the vice of the human condition and restore us to God, after whose image we were first created.
Not only a man, but also Mighty God, who would stand where man fell; who would even smash the veil of death which would not hold Him.
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” [Matt 28:18]
For us, He is the Everlasting Father; the originator or author of the everlasting. Of course, He is not God the Father, but here we are told that to us He is the father of our eternity.
He is the author of the “everlasting life” into which we are born again through repentance and faith in His work. The life which not only is eternal, but is planted within us now, that we might live to God.
Not merely a solution to our mortality, but real and divine life itself.
“I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]
For us, He is the Prince of Peace; peace with God and therefore true rest for the soul. The One who brings peace now, and a foretaste of peace to come.
Without ever truly knowing it we need wisdom, power and life… But perhaps most of all we fail to realise how desperately we need peace. We who have grasped so desperately for the false promises of peace that this world offers – peace in political victories, peace in entertainment and excitement, peace in overcoming guilt to celebrate the self… peace in all the wrong places.
The world craves the release of true peace: peace with God.
And that was the song which rang out among the angelic hosts when He was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…”
Here we find the answer; the light for the darkness: wisdom (wonderful), power (of God), life (eternal), peace… This child, born for us.
And let us not forget that it remains true today, as it always has, that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Not only that, but “of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end… The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
God is at work in the world. His light has already ripped through this land of deep darkness once, and so it continues, and it will never go out.
Praise Him that the light has dawned upon you and me, and now shines in our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ.
May the great God of peace be known to you this Christmas through the riches of the blessings He has given us in Christ.