Seek the Light this Christmas
I hope you and your family had a good Thanksgiving. Mine was very difficult. Last Wednesday night, I lost one of my long-time, closest friends Zach Muckleroy. He and his family were driving from Fort Worth to Johnson City, TX, to visit family when a truck suddenly came across and hit them head-on. Zach and his two amazing children Judson (12), and Lindsay (9) did not survive. His wife Lauren was airlifted to an Austin hospital, has undergone multiple surgeries, and thankfully is going to make it. Please pray for her and for the difficult future she now faces. The entire situation has crushed Megan and me. He was one of my closest friends, a fraternity brother at TCU, a pillar in Fort Worth, and was chair of the elders at University Christian Church. I will miss him and his children greatly.
Advent begins this Sunday, December 3rd. 2023 has been a challenging year for all of us. Losing my friend and his kids has only made it worse. Black and red ribbons still hang on mailboxes reminding us of those we lost in March at Covenant, including a nine-year-old in our church family. War rages on in Ukraine and Gaza. The American political circus is heating up.
Advent is the four-week journey to prepare for the birth of Christ. I love the Christmas season because we can feel a renewed sense of hope in the air. There is something magical about the spirit of Christmas that lifts our hearts and causes all of us to change the way that we see the world, at least for a short period of time. But we must prepare our hearts.
Christmas is a joyful and happy time for many. Children are excited. Music plays on the radio. Holiday parties are fun. Churches are full. Yet at the same time, it can be a very painful and lonely time for others. Christmas causes us to take trips down memory lane, and remember the Christmases of years ago. When we were growing up. When the children were little. Perhaps when a spouse was still living. When the world seemed much simpler, calmer, kinder, less hostile and angry. The season can serve as a reality check of sorts of the many ways life has changed.
Isaiah writes: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined… for a child has been born to us. A son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Historically, we should understand that seventh-century Jerusalem (BCE) was anything but a peaceful kingdom. The constant reality of war, oppression, invasion, exploitation, and revolt illustrate the prophetic courage and substance of Isaiah’s words. Twenty-eight hundred years later, Isaiah still describes a peaceful kingdom for which we all long but seldom experience. If we’re honest, we know that human beings still walk in darkness in many ways.
We’ve experienced the darkness of losing close friends. The darkness of a school shooting and war. The darkness of depression and anxiety. The darkness of homelessness and poverty. The darkness of loneliness and isolation. The darkness of fear and emptiness. The darkness of illness and cancer. The darkness of division and polarization. The darkness of broken relationships and divorce. The darkness of rejection and feelings of inadequacy. Our world still has a lot of darkness, which is why we all yearn for the light and hope of Christmas. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light that enlivens every person was coming into the world.”
The light of Christmas can cast out the darkness of anger, grief, and selfishness, and it replaces it with the spiritual values of love, thanksgiving, and generosity. It casts out the darkness of ignorance and doubt, and replaces it with understanding and hope. The light of Christmas casts out the darkness of hatred as seen in war, racism, antisemitism, and prejudice, and it replaces such evils with peace on earth, goodwill to all people. It casts out the darkness of sorrow and despair, and it replaces it with comfort, joy, and hope. The Christmas season reminds us that in the end, the darkness doesn’t win. The light will always shine through, but we must seek it. May it be so as we begin this Advent journey.
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