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Isaiah 9:2-7

I remember as a kid being afraid of the dark. I would always keep a light on somewhere because the darkness would overcome me, my mind would wander, and I would convince myself that something was out to get me. One time, the nightlight in my room went out, and the darkness of my room began to stir that anxiety within me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a faint light coming from under the door. I got out of bed, laid on the floor and looked at the light. It was enough to calm my fears, and I eventually fell asleep – right there on the floor. We find comfort in the light. As I look at the world today, there are many that are like that young girl – overcome by the darkness, longing for a glimmer of light to shine from under the door.

That was Israel at the time of Isaiah. In the previous chapter, Isaiah was warning the people of Israel of the impending invasion from Assyria. Isaiah 8:22 points to the darkness: “Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.” Darkness and death surrounded them. Hope seemed elusive. But God does not leave the people in darkness. God does not leave the people without hope. Because then come these words: “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 9:2).

What incredibly powerful words. Words that would pull the people of God forward in hope! Even though the words were written centuries ago, the power and hope these words evoke are so needed today. We are all very aware of the darkness that is surrounding our world, the darkness that is trying to snuff out the light: political divides, nationalism, racism, school shootings, devastating natural disasters – the list could go on. Yet, in the midst of the darkness we have these words – there is a great light shining in the darkness! It points us to similar words found in the book of John – “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

This light is not just some small nightlight that will give just a bit of light in a dark bedroom. No, this light shines brighter and is the light of life, as the Apostle John says. The hope of this light shining in the darkness is not just some wishful thinking – the Light comes in the person and presence of Christ. This light can never be extinguished because Jesus Christ is Lord – the One who was and is and is to come!

This light points to the day when God will “[break] the chains that have bound your people and lifted off the heavy bar across their shoulders, the rod the oppressor used against them. You have shattered all their bondage, just as you did when Midian’s armies were defeated” (Isaiah 9: TPT). In the midst of his prophecy about what is to come, Isaiah is reminding the people of God’s faithfulness saying, “Just like God has rescued and redeemed you from the past, God will be faithful to do it again. The light will shine in the darkness again – just hold on.” How? How will all of this come to be? “To us a child is born. To us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). Keep holding on. Keep trusting in the faithfulness of God because there is One that is coming, and He will usher in this light. He will be for the people everything they need, want, and hope for.

He will be “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God. Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b).  Wonderful – (pele’) a wonder, extraordinary, a miracle Counselor – (yāʿaṣ) advisor, giving counsel Mighty God – (gibôr ‘ēl) strong, the One True God Everlasting Father – (ʿaḏ ‘āḇ) the Father of all that will reign forever Prince of Peace – (śar šālôm) the One who will bring completeness, soundness, welfare…peace (www.blueletterbible.org) 

This is the One that was promised. Everything the people could ever hope for in a Messiah is wrapped in the names given to this Child. Isn’t this what we long for today? Everything WE could ever need was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger – all we need is Jesus. All the world needs is Jesus. The light that can break through the darkness is Jesus!

One thing this passage does not do is dismiss the darkness or cause us to run away from the darkness. No – it causes us to confront the darkness. Even as we long for the light of Christ to shine ever brighter in our lives and in the world, we must confront the darkness – even the darkness with in us! In this year’s denominational Advent devotional Come Peasant, King Pastor Olivia Craker Metcalf (2021) writes these words:

If we were to look for the distressed, the people in darkness, those wearing a heavy yoke of oppression, those whose garments have been rolled in blood by the warriors that march on and one – whom would we find in our neighborhoods, our communities, our churches, and the world? If they are the ones who are rejoicing in the text, then whom might we be? When we only read ourselves as the oppressed, the ones in darkness, the ones needing the light to dawn, we are often blind to the oppression of others around us. We need a bigger vision. (p. 23)

Could it be that we have not fully embraced what the Light of Christ has come to do in the world? Could it be that we have not allowed the Light of Christ to fully transforms us? Could there be places in our lives that are not fully surrendered and transformed – ones where we actually bring the darkness? May these words cause us to confront the darkness in our own lives – to confess the ways we have not been people of the Light.

Because we have seen the light, because we have experienced the light, we are called to tell and show others what God has done for us. These ancient words call us to be voices in the darkness saying, “Come this way, I found it! I found the light!” We are to point the way to this “Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b). Because of the Light of Christ bursting forth into our lives, we must take that light to the world. The Light was never meant for us alone! We must not forget what it was like when we were in the dark. One day the light of Christ burst into our darkness and changed everything. There is a whole world out there just longing for some light! It is not enough for us to sit on the sidelines and bemoan how dark the world has become. NO! It is on us, as the people of the Light, to take that Light into the world, to point the way to the Light of Christ. We cannot do that sitting on the sidelines, we must take this light INTO the darkness! “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 9:2). May we allow Christ to shine His light into our darkness so that we can be better reflectors of His light in the world.