“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Can you remember a time when you were afraid of the dark? I can. I remember as a little boy being afraid to go down the hall and into my room to go to bed at night. The hallway wasn’t lengthy, but for some reason the shadows and the doorways seemed sinister to me. My mother taught me to sing “though dark may be the night, there will be a ray of light, when I have a touch Lord from you.” And “standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus…” Mom made the point that Jesus was there, even if I couldn’t see him in the shadows and darkness.
I managed to grow up, fairly certain there were no longer monsters hiding under the bed or bad guys hiding in the closet. (I still prefer to sleep with the closet door closed but I haven’t checked for monsters under my bed in quite a while). I’m not afraid of the dark hallway any more, but I encountered a different kind of darkness and fear in my adult years: depression.
Depression is its’ own kind of monster, hiding in the shadows of your mind. It is a suffocating darkness, a heaviness that weighs down the spirit and blocks out the light. It has a way of especially stalking its victims during this season of the year making you feel more isolated and alone. Maybe you can relate. If so, don’t despair. Read the passage from Isaiah again. It acknowledges the darkness but affirms the blessing of the light. It’s a “great light” that has come to us, a light that offers hope even to those living in the shadow land of death.
In the passage just prior to today’s Advent Scripture, in Isaiah 8:22, the prophet speaks of those who see only distress, darkness and fearful gloom (been there and done that) but then opens chapter 9 with “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” Hallelujah! There is hope. The darkness won’t last. It can’t bear up against the coming of the Light. It is good news for all who have known only darkness and despair.
The prophet speaks of increased joy and rejoicing. The yoke will be shattered, burdens lifted, the oppressor’s rod broken. How will this be? It won’t be anything we do. Instead, the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. An extraordinary child will be born and he will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Sweet words for the troubled of heart: Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace! He is the counselor that guides us into paths bathed in His Light, dispelling the dark shadows. He is the Prince of Peace that guards our heart and mind and delivers us from fear.
Jesus is the Great Light that shines into our darkness. John’s gospel says of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men…the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” John 1:4, 9.
He is the Light of the world and the Light in our darkness. He is the Light that lifts up our countenance and gives us peace. He is the Light that dispels the shadows of depression and offers us hope, in spite of the troubles at hand. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Rejoice, even in the darkness, for the coming of the Light!