The Dawning of Hope

God is a master storyteller. And it doesn’t get much better than the Christmas story.

But to understand the richness of this story you have to go back about 700 years before the birth of Christ to Isaiah’s prophesy found in Isaiah 9.

Isaiah sets the scene for the Christmas story when he describes a world where people are “walking in darkness” and “living in the land of deep darkness” (9:2).

It’s an apt description of our world.

As Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12, our battle is against “world rulers of this darkness.” And in Acts 26:18, Paul recounts the mission Jesus gives him to go to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (emphasis mine).

The spiritual darkness of our world is one of the major themes running through Scripture. It’s a reality that since the fall of Adam and Eve, our world has been under the power of deep spiritual darkness… under the power of the ruler of darkness, Satan. That’s why Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 8:22,

“Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”

For many, that’s certainly what 2020 has revealed. For many, they “see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom.” And in many ways – and for many people – it feels like their lives have been thrust into “utter darkness.”

From the ongoing pandemic and all the suffering it and the lockdowns have caused… to the civil and political unrest here in the U.S… to the depth of the political divide across the globe… I think you’d agree that 2020 has been enveloped in darkness. And in many ways, it feels like powerful forces of darkness are on the move like never before.

Which brings me back to the Christmas story.

It’s not a mistake our Savior was born into a world at its darkest. At night. The symbolism of that first Christmas night is rich in meaning. God was making clear that He intended to shatter the spiritual darkness that held the world under its power.

It was the core of Jesus’ mission, which is why He pronounced in John 8:12…

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This is such a powerful moment. Jesus was looking back at the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9, which tells us…

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has  dawned…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (vv. 2, 6-7)

Jesus was clearly stating that He was the fulfilment of that prophecy. He was that “great light.” He was the light that was dawning.

Which once again brings us back to the Christmas story.  As though He didn’t want us to miss the potency of the moment on that first Christmas night, God sends an angel to drive home the point. Read carefully this familiar passage…

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)

God sets the scene in the midst of a deep, dark night out in the Judean hills. And in the midst of that intense darkness a great light breaks through. Nothing less than the “glory of the Lord,” which terrified (love that word picture) the shepherds.

This is it. Immanuel has arrived. And God shatters the profound darkness of that night with the light of His glory. He wants to demonstrate in dramatic fashion that with the birth of Christ, the prophetic words of Isaiah are fulfilled:

In the midst of deep darkness a light has dawned.

The Christ has come. The darkness had been put on notice. Its end has come.

Forever the power of darkness would be destroyed. It brings to life the words of John 1:4-5.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This is the promise of Christmas. Light forever overcoming darkness.

This is the dawning of hope. Eternal hope.

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