Sunday, December 25, 2011

Out of darkness (An advent reflection)

I start my day in the pitch black. I drive a van to and from the airport for a hotel here in Omaha and I've got to punch in to work at 4:20 AM. As I drive my first couple of hours in darkness, I've had time to reflect on the effect this time of night has on me. In the darkness, I feel alone, hidden, free and independent. If I may be uncomfortably transparent, I admit there are times that my own personal vices seem to feed off the darkness.  Though I affirm with my mind the omniscience and omnipresence God, my flesh seems more prone to rise up under "cover of darkness". When I sense this John 3:19 effect on my heart, I must preach to myself that I am chosen "out of darkness into his marvelous light".

Darkness is grace

For just such reasons, I think physical darkness gets a bad rap. We often imbue darkness with a sort of moral evil, especially when we read the Bible and even when we talk about it in our everyday experience. Yet the Scriptures don't always speak of darkness in such terms. Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness". Characteristically throughout the Old Testament, God dwelt in "thick darkness" in his interaction with the Israelites—and for good reason. As he explained to Moses, no one could see God and live. The cloud of this darkness surrounding God was a cloud of grace. Much like the curtain in the temple surrounding the Holy of Holies, God provided a shield—a covering of grace—to protect sinful humanity from the potent power of his presence.

God loves to break in out of darkness

There is another way that God uses darkness, and it is here that we come to a reflection on Advent (you were wondering when we'd get there, weren't you?). Darkness is a stage set. Darkness is the curtain waiting to be pulled. Darkness is the audience on the edge of their seats. Or to put it another way:
  • Darkness is the all-held-breath of creation awaiting God's pronouncement, "Let there be light".
  • Darkness is the sleep that falls upon Abram before God makes a covenant to be cut to pieces for sake of Abram's descendents.
  • Darkness is the arena where Jacob will wrestle God and become someone new.
  • Darkness is Egypt as the Angel descends to judge and to pass over those under the blood of the lamb.
  • Darkness is the little town of Bethlehem unknowing all the joy of heaven will be unleashed at the pronouncement of God become man.
  • Darkness is a certain blind man's whole existence until being touched by the good healer.
  • Darkness is Israel as they slay their Messiah outside the city before he cries "It is finished".
  • Darkness is the garden, the tomb, and death stretched tight like a balloon awaiting the pinprick of the first man to die and rise, never to die again.
  • Darkness is the sun kneeling in submission to the return of the true Light of the World.

And out of each and every darkness, God breaks in. Ex nihilo. Exploding. Exclaiming. Excruciating. Exhumed. Exalted.

Life can be dark, literally and figuratively. And that darkness may be a means of grace from God because his grace is sufficient for us, his power is made perfect in weakness. But even if the darkness itself is not from God, it is a curtain waiting to be pulled, be torn, be thrown back. So when you feel hidden and forgotten, much like the nation of Israel did when their Messiah arrived, do not be so foolish or hard-hearted. Rather, train your eyes because God loves to break in out of darkness.

    For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

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