“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.” Isaiah 9:2
It is the essence of Christmas. It calls out on our darkest nights, twinkling cheerfully from houses and stores; it drips from our Christmas trees and brightens our homes. In these dark days of winter, when the Earth’s axis tilts us away from the sun, I put up my lights, plug them in, and sigh in relief.
In John 1:5, we are told that “the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Anyone who has ever struck a match in a blackened room knows the power of light — it banishes darkness, chases shadows from sight. And Matthew 5:16 records an even more incredible thing: as we follow Jesus, we ourselves are called to carry light: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Could a greater privilege exist?
As Advent dawns, and we commence the marking of days before we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I ponder again — am I living as light? Sometimes it is hard to tell. Jesus warned us that the eye is a deceitful thing, that perception can blind us as strongly as headlights appearing suddenly on a moonless night. He told His disciples in no uncertain terms, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. … Be careful, then, that the light within you is not darkness. …” (Luke 11:34-35)
How does light in me become darkness? It has to do with how I see.
When light fails — when my eyes see imperfectly — division comes. I look with natural eyes, forget to pause and seek my Father’s heart and vision for the moment, and end up never seeing beyond the surface of people and situations. Those who need the light in me go past, not only unheard, but unseen.
The light within is darkness.
When my first instinct upon encountering distress and desperation is to protect myself, to count the cost before I say yes in obedience to the heart of God, then am I truly living as a disciple of my Jesus? If my first response when others’ needs press into my life is fear, concern for my own reputation, or doubt in my God’s ability to use me, then am I letting His light shine? Could it be that if I don’t surrender these things and follow His leading, the light in me will go dark?
That I might lose hope, grow cynical, disengage from those He sends me?
That I might even walk away from those who need me most?
And yet — as the lights drip from the trees this December, the baby in the manger calls me gently back from fear, from isolation that masquerades as busyness, to confront me again with the love of a God so uncontainable that He chose willingly to leave Heaven and Home, to wrap Himself in skin so fragile it could be torn by a soldier’s grasp, a nail, a thorn.
He who came as light, who shined brightest of all, gives only, always, Himself — and calls us to do the same, no matter the season.
Do I believe this?
If I do, then how can I not then desire to be an expression of this love — this “Emmanuel, God with us-ness” — this light that those around me may also desire, even without knowing?
Today, my Jesus, let me stop, listen and see with Your eyes. Let me speak Your words with humility, admitting my own imperfections and lack. Today, when the darkness presses in, let me see You in the eyes of those I encounter. Let me choose love.
Let me choose to be light.
The Rev. Sandra Wang is the missions pastor and a worship leader at The Lighthouse Church in Kearney.