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Joy comes with the morning

December 6, 2012 2 Comments

by Mathew Block

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

So goes a verse from the well-loved Advent hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel.” In the words we read here, we find mixed equal parts sorrow and hope. We confess that we are, indeed, oppressed by heavy darkness—that Death casts his grim shadow over us and deepest midnight circles us round. What is more, we know that on our own we can never escape.

And yet, we are not left to despair in the dark. We await the Dayspring, the Bright and Morning Star, the coming Sunrise which will finally put an end to night. It’s the story of the Jews awaiting the Messiah in the years before the birth of Jesus; it’s our story too as we await the second coming of Christ. Yes, we sit in the darkness of night. But we know Morning is coming.

We await the Dayspring, the Bright and Morning Star, the coming Sunrise which will finally put an end to night.

In the lead up to Christmas, we reflect on that longing anew. We watch. We prepare. We rejoice. And, finally, we behold.

But Christians are not the only ones in a season of “waiting” this December. A small number of conspiracy theorists have been predicting December 21st as the end of the world. The idea arises out of some Mayan records which cite that date as the end of an era—the ending of one cycle of creation and the beginning of the next. While Mayan scholars dismiss doomsday interpretations of these records, believers think the Mayans knew something we don’t— that some great catastrophe is coming and that humankind’s time is drawing to an end. Consequently, this has been a year of great darkness for doomsday believers. They have been living under the shadow of death, a shadow growing ever blacker and grimmer as December 21st approaches.

How different from the Christian’s hope! We too dwell under the dark shadow of death, but it is a shadow we know is defeated. We await reunion with our Lord Jesus; doomsday theorists see only the approach of death. At the first Christmas, God Himself entered into our world. In Him was Light, a Light that was the Light of all mankind; and that Light broke into the darkness (John 1:4-5). Yes, on the people dwelling in darkness a great Light dawned—and it forced the shadow of death to retreat (Matthew 4:16).

More than two thousand years ago, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. He became man while remaining fully God. He emptied Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross, in our place and for our sin (Philippians 2:7-8). And how dark the world seemed as He hung on that cross! The sun itself hid its face, we read, “and darkness came over the whole land” (Mark 15:33).

But though there was sorrow for the night—for two full nights, in fact—joy came with the morning. Christ arose, the Son arose, the Light of the World arose!

Chances are you don’t know anyone who really believes the world will end at the “Mayan Doomsday.” But you nevertheless do know people dwelling in the shadow of death: people suffering, people caught in sin, people who do not know the rescue Christ has bought for them. Perhaps they’re family or friends. Perhaps they’re neighbours or coworkers. These people need to hear the Good News of the Gospel. And you—as a witness to the Light of Christ—have been given the privilege and responsibility to reflect God’s light to them.

You know people dwelling in the shadow of death; and you—as a witness to the Light of Christ—have been given the privilege and responsibility to reflect God’s light to them.

In this issue of The Canadian Lutheran, we examine anew how the incarnation—God becoming man in the Person of Jesus Christ—gives us something (or, rather, Someone) tangible to hold onto when the world seems dark. We see how Christ’s Light still illumines and comforts those approaching the end of their lives. And we read of the transformation Jesus’ words are bringing to places like Iran. God entered into our world at Christmas, and He is still at work in our world, drawing us to Himself, calling us out of the darkness and into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Christ was born. The Word became flesh. The light shone in the darkness. Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to us, His people. And He will come again. Rejoice!

*****

We, the people of the darkness,
Dwelt in terror of the night.
Sin, the face of God obscuring,
Hid us from His mercies bright.

Then, in love the Father sought us,
Sent His Son on us to shine.
At the cross, He bled, and bought us
Passage into light divine.

Shall we, then, the midnight hour
Fear, or tremble at its might?
No, for Morning comes in power
To destroy the deepest night.

Christ is coming! Look, in vict’ry,
Christ is coming back to reign!
See the Light of Lights descending!
Dark is dead, and death is slain!

——————–

Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran.