Christmas is for Dark Times

My mum sent me a copy of a woman’s magazine from January 2020. It’s packed full of gems: 10 Surprising Uses For Bicarbonate Of Soda. Or this – Spring 2020 will be the season of the colour lilac. Wear it and transform your wardrobe! Reading back in the year of Covid, the life-changing magic of lilac sounds ridiculous. But in January it made perfect sense.

There’s another article where readers were asked ‘what are you most looking forward to in 2020?’ Here’s a couple of answers,

I’m looking forward to the music festivals I’ll be attending with my friends. Great music, lots of dancing and hopefully sunshine!”

“The birth of a grandchild. I can’t wait to meet our new arrival and to witness our son parenting for the first time.”

One reader is planning holidays to new destinations and excited about exploring new places. Another is looking forward to a year of better health. She writes, “After several illnesses and health issues in the family recently, 2020 has to be better!

In January these seemed like reasonable expectations – now, not so much. Who would have predicted what was ahead? No-one is talking about their lilac wardrobe. They’re talking about a world that’s been turned upside-down, a pandemic that no-one expected.

For many, 2020 has been a dark year – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. People have lost their loved ones, their jobs, their security and their health. Does this mean Christmas should be cancelled? No. The real Christmas happens in the darkness.

One of the most famous of all Christmas verses is written by the prophet Isaiah, predicting a Christmas to come:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

In Isaiah’s day, the Israelites had been invaded; their temple was destroyed, their homes were burned and their enemies drove them far from the land they love. They are people walking in darkness, but Isaiah tells them that help is coming. In verse 6 he says “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”

God is sending his Son to bring light to the whole world. But it doesn’t look like we might imagine. Instead of a mighty king, blasted down from heaven, we see a young pregnant mother, tired and hungry, at the mercy of government decrees. (A bit like us – only she was told to travel and we’re told to stay home). But the crisis is national as well as personal: an edict from King Herod, ordering that all the baby boys be killed. It’s not a part of the story they tell in the nativity plays. But it’s there in the Bible.

Christmas and darkness seem to go together.

What is the darkness? It’s suffering, and death and sickness and grief. But it’s more. I don’t actually want the light — because I know that if I look within I’ll see something ugly. There’s a darkness in the world, and a darkness in me too.

But this is the great news of Christmas. God sees our mess and He comes to us. He enters our broken world to be light in our darkness.

We ALL have to go through dark times, but in the midst of it we have hope. A God who defeated the darkness at the cross. A God who joins us in our darkness – and who promises he will lead us out.

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.

Isaiah 9:2,6

4 thoughts on “Christmas is for Dark Times

  1. Really helpful at the end of a dark year. Thank you Emma. The Lord make his face shine upon you all.

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