The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.- John 1:5
Today is the longest night of the year, with the fewest minutes of daylight we experience all year. It’s the Winter Solstice, and on this day my great-grandfather Leroy would always remark, “As the days get longer, the cold gets stronger.”
Leroy was right; the months of January and February are often much colder than December. They are so much more bearable, though, because the light is returning. Just seeing the sun for a few more minutes can lighten downcast spirits.
It’s no coincidence that we celebrate the birth of our savior at this darkest time of year. Because no one kept birth records in first-century Israel, no one quite knows exactly when Jesus was born. We celebrate his birth at the darkest, gloomiest part of year because it is precisely into the darkest, gloomiest parts of life that Jesus arrives! Jesus was born into poverty, into apparent illegitimacy (they could count to nine months back then, too), into oppression by a foreign empire, into a region ruled by an infanticidal king; in other words, into a mess.
Darkness and shadow don’t seem like strong enough words to describe this birth, and we haven’t even gotten to his death yet.
And still, somehow, this baby brings a light stronger than any darkness. Somehow this child shines brighter than any shadow could overwhelm. Somehow this infant glows with hope, peace, joy, and love to overwhelm even the deepest gloom.
It is a dark day. It may be a day that feels dark in your spirit, too, perhaps because Christmas isn’t what you planned for, or perhaps because you’re missing someone dear, or perhaps simply because you are affected by the shorter hours of daylight.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by shadow and gloom, hear this: the light of Jesus shines for you. Nothing can overcome this light. Not your fear, not your doubt, not your grief, not your guilt, not your sin, not your whatever-else-you’re-thinking-might-overcome-the-light. Jesus shines in the darkness, and nothing can overcome him.
Jesus Christ, light of the world, shine in my life. Brighten the darkness until all that remains is your perfect light. Let shadows flee at the coming of your marvelous light. Amen.