The Dark Makes Hope Stand Out

SPOILER WARNING! This is blog assumes Christmas 2021 has already happened and contains some material from the Safe Harbor Sermon for 12/26/21! But I didn’t want to post during the Christmas weekend. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Greetings and Merry Christmas to my Aberdeen and Safe Harbor families!

Christmas 2021 was Saturday and I hope and pray it was a wonderful time of celebration for you and your family. Have you ever through much about why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th? Because Jesus was not born on December 25th. Some early celebrations of Jesus birth were on March 25th. (He probably wasn’t born on that date either)

Why did the early church chose those dates?

In the ancient West, March 25th was celebrated as Vernal Equinox… the beginning of spring… life! December 25th was celebrated as the Winter Solstice… the day Sun begins its inexorable rise… the day of the Unconquerable Sun. It was a celebration of the coming of the light.

Have things been dark for you? The birth of Christ is good news for you and anybody feeling darkness. The prophet Isaiah spoke about coming of Jesus and what it would mean:

Isaiah 9:2

2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

So… why does God allow the dark?!? Well… darkness is the inevitable consequence of a world filled with fallen people looking out for their own good before the good of others. But I can talk with you about one of the ways the Lord uses the darkness: to make the light of God’s promise to redeem humanity stand out all the more.

We can see it in promise given to Abraham. When God was establishing the Jewish people through Abraham, the Lord promised that this childless old man wandering through the Middle-East would become the father of nation that would be blessing to the whole world with descendants as difficult to count as the stars at night. From this nation would come one to deliver them from the misery of corrupt living in a corrupt world. He would deliver them to to justice, mercy, and life with meaning. The Lord gave Abraham hope… and hope stands out in dark world.

If I can use the same illustration God used with Abraham but in modern context: how many stars can you see at night? In the typical suburban or urban setting, you can see stars of +2.5 magnitude. That means you might be able to see 40 stars and celestial objects objects. Forty doesn’t seem to be that many. There is just too much light pollution. But if you get out into an unpopulated place, with little to no light pollution, you can see stars with magnitude +6.5 and the sky begins to glitter with ~5,000 distinguishable stars. You can even see the haze of the Milkway, a band of the galaxy with as many as 50 billion stars.

The dark makes the stars of promise more clear. The dark of this life makes the hope we have in God’s deliverance stand out all the more. We do our best to “light” our way with carnal pleasures, or personal accomplishments and it may make the darkness more bearable but all they really do is distract us from the anxiety the darkness creates. It then obscures the stars of promise… obscures the real hope

What is the real hope? No more groping in the dark. No need to fear what’s in the dark because God reveals Himself as a loving father, forgiving our sins, tuning our hearts that we might be the best version of ourselves: loving justice, doing mercy and walking faithfully with our Creator. Its the hope of being righteous! Are your hopes that big? Are they as bright as the sun… or are the small flashlights that takes the edge off but then obscures the real hope that God offers?

Recently I was interacting with old friend on Facebook. He is an environmental lawyer for the State of PA… and he posted a cartoon on his FB page:

Philosophy is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat.

Metaphysics is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Theology is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there and shouting, “I found it!”

Science is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat and using a _______-ing flashlight!

I appreciated the humor… and the irreverence, but I pushed back in the most friendly and respectful way I could. I pointed out to him that I was trained as a scientist and now I am a theologian. He realized his post was a bit judgmental and we both expressed affection for each other.

But I would amend his post to say this: theology is like being is a dark room, hoping and praying for the sun to come shining in!

I need a hope bigger than a flashlight!

And in Christ, that is the hope that I have… that he will flood this world with light! With that kind of hope there is reason to celebrate!

Blessings on you all! Merry Christmas!

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