The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
It is the darkest time of year - and now Christmas is nearly over we'll have to face it without the happy twinkle of decorations. We're probably all feeling at least a little bit SAD.
But when the Bible references darkness, it's speaking about something more than the usual seasonal gloom. The Bible begins in darkness. It’s un-creation - the world formless and empty. The Bible ends in light, with a city where God's presence is so bright that the sun and moon are no longer necessary - God's plan fulfilled.
In between there's the struggle between Dark and Light - and of course not merely physical darkness and light. The promise in Isaiah is that, even if the night seems total, a great light will come. Here, Isaiah is addressing the spiritual state of God's people. Israel – who elsewhere Isaiah calls ‘a light to the nations’ – is here no such thing. They've turned away from the clear word of God, and towards the hocus pocus of witches and spiritists, plunging the nation into chaos. Isaiah prophesies: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...
We might not be in the same position as Israel, but we still need the light to push back the darkness inside and out. Our friends. families and neighbours need that too. And God didn't just throw a torch into the cave of human experience, the light came and took up residence in the darkness itself. That's the amazing, subversive, promise of Christmas. But thank God - literally - that the Light didn't stay long in his cozy manger.
And what can those that live in darkness do, other than head for the Light?