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Day 17 of 28: On Them, A Light Was Shone

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 HANNAH

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On Them, A Light Was Shone

In Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east come to Jerusalem, asking King Herod, “Where is the baby who was born? We saw his star rise, and we want to go worship him.”

As we read on, we learn just how much this intimidates King Herod; he begins to interrogate the wise men and bids them to go and find the child. He tells them that he also wants to worship the baby when they find him. 

But let’s pause for a moment and look at the complete picture unfolding:

Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The first sign of his birth in Matthew is a star that rises in the sky.

A birth. Then a star.

A birth. Then a star.

Here’s the symbolism I pull from all this: There’s no doubt that Mary and Joseph experienced great darkness before the birth of Jesus. There had to be significant uncertainty and fear felt by both of them. They were away from home, away from what felt familiar to them. And they were waiting… waiting for who knows how long for the birth of Jesus. Staying in the darkness, unsure of what would happen next.

Before any great light, there is usually some darkness. As the prophet Florence and the Machines once sang, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Do I wish it were this way? No, not exactly. If I had my way, then there would be no darkness whatsoever.

But I see the purpose in the darkness. I know firsthand what comes out of the dark night.

Today, as I am sitting and writing and praying these words to you, I think about this season and how it is meant to stir feelings of great joy in us. There are miracles. There are lights. There are gifts to give and receive. There are gatherings.

But, even in all the fa-la-la, there is still so much darkness in our world.

There is still sickness.

There is still war.

There are still hospital beds.

There is still death and loss and injustice.

There are still children at the border, torn apart from their families.

There is trafficking—unspeakable tragedies.

There is still grief. Still layoffs. Still overdoses.

There is still depression and heartbreak, and unanswered questions.

There is so much darkness in the world that we cannot sweep out of the picture just because “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

I find hope that the story of Jesus begins with darkness and that a great light announces his birth.

The sign of Jesus’ birth could have begun with any great sign– 

An army.

A parade.

A horn blaring through the night.

And yet God chose a star. He chose something simple and yet hopeful, something we all can access.

A light shining in the darkness.

Look closer. Back to the book of Isaiah. This light was embedded into the story hundreds of years before it even happened, through the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone.”

It is through Jesus coming– him shaking up the story– that the light pours through and gives us hope that something better is on the way.

Look even closer than that. Go back to the very first chapter of Genesis. The words in this chapter say:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

The word “darkness” used here isn’t the same kind of word you’d use to describe a room with no light or the darkness you encounter when the sun goes down. It means, “misery, death, sorrow, destruction, wickedness.” 

The Scripture’s author is saying to the reader, “Now the earth was formless and empty, something terribly wicked and wrong was over the surface of the deep.” Before God ever did anything, something was wrong from the beginning- a strange kind of darkness hovered over the earth’s surface.

But God… But God, friend.

Of all the things He could have done or said first to sculpt the earth, He chose to name the one thing that would combat that wicked, wicked darkness. He decided to say, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

A great, great light.

Reading

Matthew 2:1-9, Isaiah 9:2

Steal This Prayer

Dear God, it is easy to get caught up in this season and forget the hurt and broken. Rearrange my heart and give me eyes to see the people I can impact with hope and love. Turn me into a hope-bringer this holiday season. I say “yes” to whatever that looks like and requires.



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In moving my blog to a newer platform, I sadly had to let go of the thousands of comments and conversations that came from readers over the last 10+ years. This grieves me deeply but I know there will new conversations, fresh words of wisdom, and opportunities to create close community once again. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. I’ll be reading + replying on a regular basis.

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