December 21, 2016
By Jeffrey Gallagher.
A reflection by the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Gallagher.
Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV)
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.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
A few years ago I found myself on a plane, in a snowstorm, waiting to make it back home. Anxious about whether we would take off, as the de-icing continued, I didn't assume my usual don't-talk-to-me-so-I-don't-have-to-tell-you-I'm-a-pastor position.
My headphones were off and the weather was all the woman next to me wanted to talk about.
"I hope it's not snowing when we get back home," she kept saying, nervously fumbling and fiddling with her things. Mercifully, after about 10 minutes, we finally took off climbing high into the ominous dark clouds above.
With the city below completely obscured, it became really dark and choppy. As we climbed higher, it seemed as though the darkness was never going to relinquish its hold on us, and I figured the clouds were there for the duration of the flight.
But then, all of the sudden, we broke through. And the scene above was miraculous. As we left that blanket of darkness beneath, and rose higher and higher into the sky, it was as if we had entered another world. The darkness was gone, and the sun was shinning brightly—brighter than I had ever seen.
You could almost hear a collective gasp come from the people in the plane. It was as if this huge burden had been lifted. Everything had been transformed. Even the woman next to me noticed, leaning over to say: "Gee, maybe it won't be snowing when we get home after all."
Today is the darkest day of the year. For some of us it may feel as though the darkness will never relinquish its hold on us. But our faith tells us something different. We know Isaiah's promise. The light is about to break through. Love is preparing to be born. The scene will soon be miraculous.
Those early Christians clearly knew what they were doing when they set Christmas to counteract the winter solstice. Light has the power to transform darkness. So watch for it. Wait for it. Allow it to illumine your day. It might just take your breath away.
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Mother, Prince of Peace, break into the darkness of this day, we pray, birthing a light that can, and will, change everything. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher is the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland and author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith.
December 21, 2016