In the 17th century, a period of time began which historians call “the enlightenment.” It was a time when human reason and intellect began to make great strides in science and technology. The so-called superstitious and silly ways of the supernatural and religion were being left behind, and now things would be better. More enlightened. And there is no denying that the advances made since that time have had a great impact on our lives today, and have made them better in many ways.
However, this verse from the prophet Isaiah is still true: “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” (9:2).
No matter what strides have been made in medicine and technology, in learning and discovery; no matter how “enlightened” we think we are, there is still darkness in our world. Deep darkness. The darkness of sin. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t overcome it. And though we may not see it from time to time, it always rears its ugly head and reminds us that its still here. Always here. When terrorists strike and kill many people, we see the darkness. When nature convulses and produces tsunamis and mudslides and other natural disasters, we see the darkness. When a husband and wife split up, we see the darkness. When we remember the sad occasion of the Roe v. Wade decision made 41 years ago and all the countless deaths that has led to, we see the darkness.
And when we look inside ourselves, at our unclean and hateful thoughts, at our selfish and impure motives, at our me-first attitudes and deeds, we see the darkness. The darkness of God’s good and wonderful creation plunged into sin.
The Enlightenment thought it could make this darkness go away. If only we try hard enough, and work hard enough, and become advanced enough, human science and reason can find a way out. And still today, many think that if we can just teach more, and legislate more, and become more “advanced” in our thinking and attitudes that we can overcome the darkness and evils in our world. . . . But consider: doesn’t it seem that the more “advanced” we become, the deeper the darkness gets? From politics to economics to morals and ethics to the apostasy that we see happening in many church bodies today – the darkness isn’t going away. The people dwelling in darkness are not only those living in “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” – those people are also here. The darkness is alive and well in the world today, in the land of the
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There is a light that shines in this darkness. It is the Epiphany light of Jesus Christ.
Jesus knows all about the darkness. He was God conceived in the darkness of Mary’s womb. He was born into the darkness on Christmas Eve. He was killed on Friday afternoon as darkness covered the land. His corpse was placed into the darkness of a tomb and then the stone rolled in front. He has personally walked through the dark shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
Against Christ, darkness does not stand a chance. Against Christ, our sins cannot prevail and our fears cannot rule. Against Christ, enemies cannot ever extinguish the light.
So, when the gloom of your great guilt depresses you, when the dimness of your small faith saps your energy, and when living in the land of the shadow of death causes you to cower in fear, remember in whose kingdom you work; recall in whose name you have been called to follow, and recognize in whose light you now live. The Bible encourages: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
The Light of the world shines on you with the rays of His strength so that you can continue caring for that special someone or continue carrying that extra responsibility day after day. The Light of the world shines on you and brightens your day by chasing away every shadow of guilt and fault. The Light of the world shines on you and in turn makes you shine out with a dazzling display of a Christian work ethic or Christian optimism or Christian character that others notice and appreciate.