Christmas joy and Christmas grief are the unavoidable extremes of Christmas. Parents of young children, the healthy, and those who have successfully had more progress than failure gather to joyfully commune. But in the houses of mourning, disease, and uncertainty, loneliness and insecurity can be hard to shake.
Isaiah’s words seem especially poignant for those not sure they can get up, take another step, and feign joy.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.” (Isaiah 60:1,2)
Those struggling with new and unwelcome circumstances understand the thick darkness. The empty chair. The bank account drawing low. The house where you raised your children now a pile of rubble.
But the Lord . . .
Oh, how those words offer the hope that can be so hard to find but is desperately needed in the dark. Hope in a word is Immanuel. God with us. Never alone. He comes to us, thank God, because we couldn’t go to him. That light in the tunnel of darkness that you’ve been waiting and looking for is better than you dared to hope.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Those of you with gladness of heart have the light of life. Rejoice! Decorate and bake and love on those you love with gusto. But keep your eyes open. Someone in your circle is grieving. Someone is barely holding on. Bring them a meal. Invite them to church. Take them to coffee or sit in their living room and listen and love. Arise and shine the light of Jesus into their world.
Those of you trudging through life also have the light of life. In the Old Testament, God was the pillar of light that led his people through the desert. He didn’t take them out of the desert, but he never left their side. He provided the necessities, shielded them from harm, and guided them each day. His presence, the presence of the Almighty God, stood before them.
That presence rises upon you and spreads his glory over you too. Can’t see it? Then pray boldly as Moses did. When God said he’d be with Moses, Moses responded, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). It’s a request I wouldn’t have dared to make, but God didn’t flinch. He put Moses in a rock cleft and allowed him to see as much as he was humanly able to see. Moses was still in the wilderness with an enormous task before him and an undeniable need for God to get him through each day, but God was there, and God was real.
That, whether we are weeping and mourning or rejoicing and leaping, is the condition of us all. The burden of living in this world is the undeniable need for God to get us through this life and bring us to the next.
He does. Faithfully he carries us from day to day, season to season, year to year. And one day we will be in our eternal home and in his everlasting presence, rejoicing with Moses and Isaiah and all God’s people who clung to his promises.
Arise. Get out of bed. (Some of us need to hear that). Live. The light has come. He will see you through, fulfilling his purposes and plans in your life. With all certainty you can know that whatever comes, God is with you, will never leave you, and will bring you to be with him forever.
Immanuel. God with you now and always. Shine because you are in his presence.