As we come upon the Christmas season, we are called to recognize and live in its joy even in spite of all the darkness around. In fact, the truth of Christmas is the only thing that can guide us to joy in the midst of the darkness. And of course, that is the point of Christmas.
I was reminded of this recently as we sat in anticipation of a phone call. We have been awaiting a call from my older sister and her husband that “a child has been born.” She was due Tuesday, Nov. 21. This was an anticipation that had been long in coming and not just because of the nine months of pregnancy. In my family, life has been abundant. Within about ten years, we’ve been blessed with eleven new children amongst four families. Gatherings are filled with life, with noise, with joy. Since then though, the light of new life has been overshadowed by the darkness of death. A string of miscarriages have been the recent storyline. The excitement of good news was dashed by the somber reality of unrealized hopes.
We were ready for the good news of life, that to us a child had been born. On Monday night, the phone rang. I saw it was my dad on the caller id. I anticipated a call of good news. He didn’t have any. He was calling to tell me that one of brother’s co-workers, a dear friend and mentor to him, had a heart attack and died at work. He was in his fifties. My brother had tried to revive him by CPR to no avail. He left behind a wife and children. The other day I received news that a close friend of mine in her forties had received a dark diagnosis about her cancer battle. The cancer was spreading relentlessly. They give her three months to live. The shadow has loomed at our church here as well as recent deaths leave empty chairs, ends to life-long conversations, and grief that is hard to bear. Why does death seem to have control? Why is its shadow so ominous? As those walking in darkness, we needed to see a great light. As the Lord promises, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30.5).
Monday night my dad called with news of weeping. But just about an hour ago, on this Tuesday morning as I write this, a phone call came. On the other end, my sister gave the good news of the morning, “to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Micah was here, 9 lbs 1 oz. A Hebrew name, Micah translates as a question, “Who is like the LORD?” As we come upon Christmas, we must rejoice in this. Who else is like the LORD, who gave us his very Son, the Light of the world, who would conquer death and break forevermore the shadow of death? As we face the darkness this Christmas, let us rejoice that in Jesus Christ the light has come. “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).