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Light in the Darkness

December 13, 2016 No Comment
Rev. Paul Zabel

Rev. Paul Zabel

by Paul Zabel

I was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. During my “formative years” my family attended and were members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church located at Grand River and Whitcomb on what is known as the West side of Detroit. I and my three sisters attended elementary school at Holy Cross as well. Every Christmas Eve, all the children in the school took part in the Worship Service or Pageant which consisted of “living scenes” from the Bible, chronicling some of the major prophecies pointing to our Messiah’s coming and, of course, the narrative from Luke chapter two of our Lord and Saviour’s birth. Just recently one of my childhood friends shared with me the fact that a video recording of one of these Christmas Eve Worship Services from years gone by can be found on YouTube. Can you imagine that?

For one reason or other, one of the Bible passages from this Christmas narrative has stuck with me. Isaiah 9:2 (KJV) reads: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Living in rural Iowa my first four years in the pastoral ministry, I, my wife, and my children were not long in discovering what it is like to be suddenly surrounded by total darkness. It was not unusual for us to be without hydro for three or four days at a time, several times, during the winter months. And, have you ever had the experience of feeling your way along the road in total darkness—with one foot on the shoulder and one foot on the pavement of the road—because your flashlight gave out as you were walking to the next farmhouse a quarter of a mile away to get water from their outdoor water pump?

Have you, as a child of God, ever felt like the darkness has been closing in on you? It’s rather disconcerting, isn’t it—to travel to work in your office or workplace in the darkness and to travel back home after day is done in the darkness as well? Have you ever found yourself looking at the clock on the wall in the early evening hours during these winter months and mistakenly felt or thought that it was the middle of the night?

Of course, Isaiah 9:2, one of the verses included in Isaiah’s great chapter prophesying the coming of our Messiah, is not referring to physical darkness but rather to spiritual darkness. And how many times haven’t you and I felt as if that kind of darkness was closing in on us as well? These thoughts may capture us as we look at the state of the world around us. They may also grip us when we suddenly encounter suffering or sickness that comes unexpectedly upon us or one of our loved ones. Maybe we find ourselves simply hoping that Christ will return in all of His glory before the darkness gets too bad.

Have you, as a child of God, ever felt like the darkness has been closing in on you?… Maybe we find ourselves simply hoping that Christ will return in all of His glory before the darkness gets too bad.

What do we do when we are suddenly thrust into physical darkness because of a power outage? We know that the solution is to find some sort of light; we begin looking for flashlights or camping lanterns. So what should we do when we find ourselves surrounded by spiritual darkness? We turn to the Scriptures that remind us and point us to the fact that Christ is the Light of the world! Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness of this world, and this world will never overcome that light (John 1:4-5). The light that shines is not our own light; it is the Word of God, “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105).

The fact of the matter is that the world always has been and always will be in the darkness of sin and death. When we feel that darkness closing in on us, we take comfort in the fact that upon us “the Light has shined!” And when we encounter those around us who are also “walking in the darkness,” who perhaps appear to be overwhelmed by that darkness, may God use us to help point them to the Light of the world—that they too may follow Him and no longer walk in the darkness but rather in the Light of life (John 8:12)!

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Rev. Paul Zabel is President of the East District of Lutheran Church–Canada.