Darkness. So thick, so wet, so dense that it feels suffocating. A weary fellowship of travelers. Huddled, struggling to find their way deep in the tunnels of an ancient mountain. Despite the fact that they are only in the early stages of their long and dangerous quest, the road had already proved more arduous than they ever imagined. Their hopes have already grown thin and they could think of little else at this moment aside from finding a way out of these caves.
Suddenly a warm and inviting light flickers off the walls. The darkness leaps back, seeking shelter behind the wrinkles and crevasses of the ancient stone. A hopeful glow emanates from the long staff of a tall, stout figure with a tall pointed hat. He leads the group. Although their present dilemma had not yet been solved, this bright light fills them with the hope of victory. It points to the coming light, where the evil that they are facing would be at last defeated. And it gives them the strength to face the next stage of their dark journey.
What does this story have to do with the Christmas season? Quite a bit actually. Every year when the holiday rolls around we are all asking about “the meaning of Christmas”. What is the significance of the fact that God came into the world? He’s still a baby. He hasn’t actually done anything yet. Sure its all sentimental and stuff. Angels and songs. Shepherds, twinkling stars. But at the end of the day, does Christmas actually accomplish anything? Hear a word from Isaiah, 700 years before the Savior’s birth.
“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.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
In a world of darkness and suffering, the coming of Christ is the sudden appearance of the light of hope. Although this is not the final victory itself, it foreshadows the things that are to come. Finally, the one has come who will conquer the darkness and open the door to knowing God. He will lift the burden of our selfishness and alienation on himself. He will carry our load. He has come to lead us home.
In the presence of his coming the darkness shrinks back. This is the message that Isaiah delivered to Israel at one of the weakest and most hopeless moments of their history. It is the message that he delivers to every person who seeks a way out of the darkness of this world.