The Light That Guides Us
How to wait for Christ amid the darkness.
This is the second of a four-part Advent series entitled After Darkness, Light. Read the first part here.
Each year we go through a rhythm of seasons. As autumn turns to winter, Christmas decorations are pulled from the back of closets and storage bins. Homes are lit up with bright lights. Christmas wreaths are hung. Shops are decorated with colorful ribbons. At the end of each year, no matter what we’ve experienced in our own lives, Christmas comes.
For many, December itself is a time of sweet sorrow as it forces us to reflect and perhaps mourn over the year’s losses. John Dickerson wrote at the start of the two-year long pandemic, “If you have ever lost someone you loved, you know the feeling of seeing the world through a bank teller’s glass. You observe other people laughing and enjoying their day, but you are apart from them, separated by a thick, bulletproof barrier.”
As we enter into the holiday season, some of us will find ourselves in that place asking: How can there be joy when I’m surrounded by darkness? How can I find hope in the shadow of regrets, loss, or even death?
In the book of Luke, the birth story we’re introduced to in the first chapter isn’t Christ’s story, it’s John the Baptist’s. Upon his birth, John’s father Zechariah praises God in a song known as the Benedictus. In it, Zechariah recites a beautiful description of the coming Christ who will “shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79). For the Israelites, after centuries of darkness, light was drawing near. A promise God gave to Israel’s King David centuries ago (2 Sam 7:11-13) would soon be realized in Christ — the promise of salvation.
But the people of Israel would still need to wait several more decades until the promise was fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Despite that, the anticipation was enough for Zechariah to break out into song even while still surrounded by darkness and uncertainty. Like Zechariah, that’s where many of us as Christians are today: waiting in the dark.
Every December we enter the season of Advent, a symbolic season of waiting and preparation for the light that guides us: the coming Christ. We know because of Zechariah’s story, and many others throughout God’s word, that our story ends with hope fulfilled. Christ gives us that assurance when he rose from the dead and put death in its grave.
Revelation tells us in chapter 21, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Our story ends with life with God in a dwelling place radiated by his glory. But until then, in this season of waiting, we’ve been given the mission of a purposeful life that points others to Christ. Through the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation, we as Christians can reflect his light in the darkness for others: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8).
As the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, we will be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” In the dead of winter, Christ enters the scene as the light of the world who strengthens us, guides us, and gives us unexplainable peace even amid death, mourning, crying and pain. As Christians we know — and are called to make known — that in the end, no matter what we’ve experienced in our own lives, Christ comes.
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.