"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined." Isaiah 9:2
The prophet Isaiah will be read in churches and in homes this Christmas Eve across the world. Isaiah wrote to a people who knew about the darkness. The stark realities facing the people of Israel was ever present to them. They were a people in exile. The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. The Temple, the center of their worship life lay in ruins. They were a captive people who were oppressed and left with little hope for a return to the life they once knew.
In our time so many experience the darkness as well. Our nation stands divided and questions about our future loom large for many people. In our society people are marginalized, being isolated from food, shelter, power and perhaps most importantly a sense of hope.
The working poor, the single parent on welfare, the homeless, the street kid, the physically and mentally challenged, the family of an alcoholic, the child going back and forth between separated parents, the refugee, Muslims, persons of color experiencing deep seated racism: The list of those who feel enveloped by the darkness seems to increase every day.
Walking in the dark would not be on the top of my list for favorite things to do. There have been times when I am traveling and I have awoken in the middle of the night in a dark hotel room and wondered to myself, "Where am I?" It's a disorienting feeling to be in the dark and not have a clue where you actually are. The darkness is disorienting. It does not allow perspective. It can be terrifying and one can feel terribly alone. It can lead to stubbed toes, falling over tables and bumping into walls. In our deepest darkest moments we always seek the light.
That is the amazing and incredible thing about light. You don't need a lot of it to see. Light always overcomes the darkest places. Light transforms the darkness.
Surely we need the light this Advent/Christmas season. Later in Isaiah 9 the prophet gives voice to the Light we Christians have interpreted to be Jesus:
"A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal One, Prince of Peace."
My soul is revived when I read this and especially when I hear this read aloud. Despite the darkness that swirls all around us this child, this one who literally is Hope for the world in which we live reveals God's amazing Light.
And so my prayer for all of us is that we become Light bearers to the darkness of the world in which we find ourselves. Let us together reflect Christ's love and justice and compassion. Yes, we live in a land of deep darkness AND on us and God's world the light has shined, is shining and will continue to shine on as we live out the vision of the United Church of Christ: United in Christ's love, a just world for all.
A blessed Christmas to you and yours.
Kent Siladi, Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference, United Church of Christ