Lighting the Candle
“Then they will look toward the earth and see only
distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust
into utter darkness. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for
those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—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.Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 8:22-9:1-2, 9: 6-7a
In C. S. Lewis’ fantasy book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, little Lucy stumbles through the back of a wardrobe into the imaginary kingdom of Narnia, where it is “always winter, but never Christmas”. Today’s Scripture opens to a kingdom like Narnia where there is “only distress and darkness and fearful gloom”, but still the great promise of Christmas.
In today’s text the prophet Isaiah is writing in a very dark time for his nation as they are under siege by the Assyrian armies. They have lived in rebellion against God and now nations are rising up to oppress them. The northern tribes of “Zebulun” and “Naphtali” have already fallen to the Assyrians, and Isaiah uses very strong imagery. The darkness is great. Gloom and distress are overwhelming. There is seemingly no hope!
Yet in the midst of darkness the prophet speaks a word of promise and hope. The deep darkness that has spread over the land will be pierced by a great light. God’s promise through the prophet is so certain that Isaiah writes in the past tense as if these things have already been fulfilled: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”, and “the light has dawned”. God speaks His promise as an already accomplished fact. His word is firm and reliable. It is something that God will do.
But notice how it is that God’s light will break into the darkness and gloom. God’s light will come through a child who is born to us. He is God’s gift to us: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”. God breaks into history not from a high and lofty position, but through a child, His very own Son. And God’s promise is that his Son will be a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.”
The Gospel of Matthew reports that God’s Son began his ministry in “Galilee of the Gentiles” to fulfill the promise that God had made to His people:
“Leaving Nazareth, Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13-16)
God’s promise to us is that the darkness will not win the day. The light has dawned, and Jesus is living in us and through us to bring His light to the world.
MOMENT OF SILENCE AND REFLECTION
Faithful God, we thank you that the light has dawned through Jesus Christ our Lord. We thank you that even when your people fall into sin you do not forsake us, but keep your promise to shine the light. Shine on us today, and shine through us even into the dark corners of our world. Amen.