Wednesday, December 21, 2022

God's Response to Darkness

 Today marks the Winter Solstice--the shortest day of the year, and therefore the longest night.  The Winter Solstice has a long history of pagan celebration, but it carries an even more powerful Christian message.

As the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day/longest night, it also marks the march toward Spring and Summer, times of abundant light and reduced darkness.  The analogy is easy to make:

The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.  Isaiah 9:2, quoted in Matthew 4:16.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life.  John 8:12.

At the moment, the planet is angled away from the sun on its yearly journey.  This is the season of darkness.  But the celebration of the Winter Solstice reminds us that lighter--and better--days are ahead.  In like manner, we are living in a sinful, dark world.  But the Bible proclaims that the Light has come, and will come again!  That is good news, indeed.

Of course, the analogy is not perfect.  Our planet will continue to turn, and the Winter Solstice of 2023 will follow the coming spring, Sumer and fall.  But those who follow Christ in faith will have His light regardless of the planetary position or the conditions of this world.

In the bleak midwinter, all creation groans 

For a world in darkness, frozen like a stone.

Light is breaking 

In a stable for a throne.

                                                                                                             Chris Tomlin

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Messiah Beyond Our Expectations

 The Christmas narrative can be fairly described as a dialectical masterpiece, one that takes layer upon layer of apparently contradictory and incompatible bits of information and fits them into a miraculous whole.  Contrasts and the unexpected become normal and commonplace.


The mighty angel Gabriel is sent from heaven to Galilee, considered a backwater town and some distance from Israel’s religious center, Jerusalem.  A young woman with no status or renown is chosen to be the mother of the Son of God.  Her betrothed marries her, willing to believe that the baby she carries is indeed of God.  The two have little in the way of resources—no money, no power, no influence—with which to protect and nurture someone as important as the Son of God.  


The young Galilean couple travels to Bethlehem late in the pregnancy, not by choice but by legal decree.  And so they find themselves 90 miles from home when the Infant God is born.  The royal birth announcement is made by an angel, not to the upper class but rather to a group of lowly shepherds.  And as if the announcement of the single angel isn’t enough, he is joined by a host of angels rejoicing in the birth of the Messiah.


The newborn King—the Messiah, the Savior of the world—is the fulfillment of long-studied prophecy.  Born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, from the line of David.  And yet the religious experts and authorities of the day do not recognize the prophetic fulfillment.  Instead, two elderly prophets proclaim the good news in the temple, and upper-class wise men from a distant land appear to pay homage.


The wise men direct attention to the baby Messiah, but not in the way they intend.  A jealous ruler seeks the Messiah as well, not to pay homage, but to murder.  The result is the untimely and tragic death of a generation of young children.  The Messiah Himself is taken by His parents to Egypt.  Egypt!  The last place a Jewish family would expect or want to go….



And now, centuries later, here we are…. We have the benefit of the New Testament as well as the Old to understand those past events, and more context to understand and integrate the dialectical elements.  But we, just like those who lived back then, still interpret what we read and events around us according to our personalities, personal histories, desires, and sin nature.  Each Christmas season is an invitation to ponder anew the Incarnation and to pursue a deeper and truer knowledge of the Messiah so that we can better build our faith relationship with Him upon the reality of who He is.  He has created us in His image; we must not make Him in ours. 


And then from this humble position, we are—perhaps unexpectedly—much better able to glorify God with the angels as we celebrate God’s greatest gift at Christmas.  From Christmas we look toward the Messiah’s return, which will come when we least expect it.  Come Lord Jesus!