“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. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy…for to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”- Isaiah 9:2-3, 6.
Humanity without God is world without warmth, traveling without certainty, life without purpose, suffering without hope, darkness without light. Humanity without union with God is cold and lifeless. Advent is about God bringing back what was lost and rescuing that which could not find its way. He searches out those who hide in the dark corners of their sin and shame. Like a man searching in the darkness with a flashlight for a precious something that was lost, so is God coming in Christ to search out His people. But He does not simply shine out light to find His people, He is the Light which comes after them to expose them, to warm them, and to draw them back into communion.
A prominent theme of the Incarnation is penetrating Light. In the prophecy of Isaiah, Galilee of the Gentiles, “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,” is “made glorious” (9:1) by the dawning of a shattering Light. Hitherto, the nations had walked and wandered in chill and uncertainty. They stumbled because of rebellion and wandered without purpose, without communion, and without salvation. But the prophet tells us that from Galilee the long night will end. What, though, is the reason for this morning? A child is given as a gift (v.6). This child, Isaiah tells us, is of such magnitude that “the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this,” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Bethlehem was illuminated on a night over 2,000 years ago with a glorious, spiritual light. From that moment on, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1:5). What can darkness do but dissolve in the face of radiance? Evil is undone by the Goodness of Christ. The words of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople work well here. The Light of Light, very God of very God, came among us as a child. Indeed, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” (John 1:4). The Christ-child lit up the world’s darkness. Indeed, He would exclaim, “‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,'” (John 8:12). Post-Bethlehem, Christ came forth from Galilee after his temptation in the wilderness. The Apostle Matthew tells us, “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled,” (Matthew 4:12-13). Striking out from Galilee, He would find His lost sheep.
It is gripping how Christ describes Himself as the Light and yet tells us that if we follow Him we will have the light of life. What is the light of life but Christ Himself? Christ is truly our life (Galatians 2:20) and light. The life and light are tied tightly to believing and not rejecting the Christ. For “to all who did receive Him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12). What results from the possession of Christ, both our possession of Him as a gift and His possession of us as His people, is redemption and adoption. We are redeemed, purchased back from the dominion of sin, and adopted into the glorious family of God. For “his own people did not receive Him,” (John 1:11) and crucified Him. By His death and resurrection He made a way unto salvation. For He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). With the justice of the Father upheld by the blood of Jesus the Son, forgiveness and life can be applied to us by the Spirit.
The Advent of Immanuel, God with us, is the dawning of Light and the dispelling of darkness. If we but trust in Christ as Savior, risen from the grave and exalted, the darkness of our hearts will be changed to glorious day. We will be raised with Him to live in Light forever. For us in this season, let us allow our thoughts to rest on Immanuel, the One with us now in our suffering and pain and the One who will be with us forever. His dwelling with us gives us security in the moments of our temptations and challenges us to live for His glory in every moment of our life. He is with us, within us by His Spirit, at the water cooler at work, in the traffic jam at 5pm, and in our arguments with spouses, parents, and friends. Immanuel is a constant challenge to our selfish tendencies. He makes us aware of our sin and works holiness within us. But He is also a constant comfort in our weakness and in our pain. When we fail He is there to tell us of our identity, to remind us of our adoption. He is there to remind us of His faithfulness. He is also a constant reminder of life to come. When all things come to an end, and forever commences, the loud voice from the throne will remind us, “‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God,'” (Revelation 21:3). In eternity, His people “will need no light of lamp or sun, for the LORD God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever,” (Revelation 22:4).
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
– Charles Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing