“But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them, light has shined.” —Isaiah 9:1-5
04 Dec, 2020
The word ‘selah’ throughout Scripture is used as an exclamation mark at the end of a verse to help us pause and reflect on its meaning. Today, in day four of our Christmas devotional series we are resting on Isaiah 9:1-5. Selah.
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Heavenly Light–Longing for Justice
by Matt Steele
In a year filled with struggles and darkness, what does it look like to celebrate Christmas focused on the light Christ brings to the world?
In May 2017 God broke—and then healed—my heart.
A Compassion field trip to the Philippines was my first experience of extreme poverty.
We landed in Cebu City and after visiting the vibrant local church we were taken to a community called Lorega.
Until quite recently, Lorega had been rife with addiction and crime. And there remained a looming darkness which I found overwhelming.
Squalid, tightly packed homes of rough bricks and rusting scrap metal arose in an old graveyard. We could no longer see the gravestones, but we picked our way through mud and faeces, while the locals stopped and looked at us.
We squeezed through narrow alleys, pushing deeper and further through thick humidity to visit families living in dark and tiny homes that flood when it rains, which it does often.
Darkness seemed to swallow up this community.
Will the darkness win?
That day it felt inevitable.
Late last year I was back in the Philippines and I started reading a novel about a pandemic which begins with this depressing observation:
“The bright side of the planet moves towards darkness…”
It is a metaphor of day turning to night, which not only sums up my experience of extreme poverty but sums up 2020 for so many people. Soon after I finished this book, a real-life pandemic began to swallow the world.
For much of this year it really has felt as if our planet is moving towards darkness.
So, will the darkness win?
Christianity never denies the reality of darkness. There was darkness before creation. There was the darkness of Israel’s slavery and apostasy and exile. There was darkness in Jesus’ tomb. There is darkness in the world and in every human heart.
And when we are overwhelmed by fear and sadness and our own sinfulness it can seem as if the planet moves towards darkness.
But is this our true trajectory?
From the first page of Scripture, we find the opposite is true. God’s light enters the darkness. And against the backdrop of deep darkness, God’s promise shines.
“There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish … those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them, light has shined.”
God is writing a story for humanity which does not end in darkness. He speaks into darkness—in the creation, in the exodus, in the wilderness, in a baby’s birth—and shines a great light.
And so, at Advent, we acknowledge the reality of darkness. We grieve it. But we also look to the coming of Jesus Christ. Because in His person, God’s light has come into the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Considering Jesus’ victory over sin and death and injustice, we do not live-in gloom—we live with hope as we wait for His return, because on that day every dark shadow will be swallowed up by light.
So, the question I keep asking myself is this:
Am I living as if darkness will win?
In that church in Cebu City—and in Compassion centres all over the world—children are not living in darkness. They have a hope that is more powerful than poverty because they know that Jesus has come. And so, all around the world the night is over, dawn is breaking, and daytime is on its way.
The dark side of our planet moves towards the light.
This Advent let us fix our eyes on Jesus and put our hope in Him.
We wait with expectation for the coming justice found in the redemptive work of the cross. Help us to remember your perspective as we pray and seek. Your work, at work, within us.
Matt is married to Clare and they have three kids. He is currently working as a stay-at-home dad in the beautiful city of Newcastle. He is also an ordained Anglican minister and spent the last 10 years pastoring in a local church in Sydney’s inner west. He loves speaking about the hope we have in Jesus.
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At the Table Conversation Starter
What have you been longing for with great expectation?
This Christmas, how can we focus on the light of Jesus and be present to our loved ones, rather than focused on consumerism?
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