On them a light was shone
by Hannah Brencher
In Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, asking King Herod, “Where is the baby who was born? We saw his star rise and we want to go worship him.”
As we read on, we learn just how much this intimidates King Herod and he begins to interrogate the wise men and demand they go and find the child. He tells the wise men that when they find him he, too, wants to go and worship him. However, (if you know how this story turns out) that’s not exactly true.
But let’s pause for a moment and look at full picture unfolding.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem.
The first sign of his birth in Matthew is a star that rises in the sky.
A birth. Then a star.
A birth. Then a star.
Here’s the beautiful image I pull from all this: no doubt, Mary and Joseph experienced great darkness before the birth of Jesus. There was definitely bound to be uncertainty and fear felt by both of them. And those long nights. Oh, those long nights that I am sure felt endless.
Before any great light, there is usually some darkness.
Do I wish it were this way? No, not exactly. If I had my way then there would be no darkness.
But I see the purpose in the darkness. I see what comes out of the darkness.
Today, as I am sitting and writing and praying, I think about this season and how it is meant to stir feelings of great joy in us. There are miracles. There are lights. There are gifts to give and receive. There are gatherings. And, despite the chaos of the season, there just seems to be something about the holidays that puts people in a better mood.
But, even in all the fa-la-la, there are still people in the world encountering great darkness.
There is still sickness.
There are still hospital beds.
There is still death and loss and injustice.
There are still children at the border, torn apart from their families.
There is still grief and lay-offs that happen during the holidays. There is still depression and heartbreak and unanswered questions.
There is so much darkness in the world, in this season, that we cannot sweep out of the picture just because “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
I think it is purposeful-- intentional on God’s part-- that the story would begin with darkness before the birth of Jesus and then to make the first sign of change a star in the sky-- a great light.
The sign of Jesus’ birth could have been anything and yet God chose a star. A light.
This light was embedded into the story hundreds of years before it even happened, through the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone.”
Of course, this light mentioned here is not the star in the sky but Jesus himself coming into the picture. It is through his coming-- him shaking up the story-- that the light pours through and gives us hope and joy that better is coming.
I know there are plenty of people who celebrate Christmas without any spiritual ties or religion but I cannot help and stand amazed that there is one thing we all want to see this time of year: the lights.
There is such great hope in something that lights up the darkness. It is something unexplainable but it seems to bring us a little closer together this time of year.
As I said earlier, God could have chosen anything to be a great sign of His son’s birth.
A horn blaring through the night.
But he chose something simple and yet hopeful, something we all can access.
A great, great light.
Matthew 2:1-9, Isaiah 9:2
STEAL THIS PRAYER
Dear God, it is so easy to get caught up in this season and forget the hurting and broken. Rearrange my heart and give me eyes to see the people I can impact with hope and love. Turn me into a hope-bringer this holiday season. I say "yes" to whatever that looks like and whatever that requires.
Make a difference today,