Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.Isaiah 9:1-4 (NLT)
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,[c]
a light will shine.
You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
Please take a moment and appreciate that we are sitting in a warm place with lights, running water, and heat. Right now, there are people even in our state who can’t make that claim. The arctic system that has brought us our lovely sub-freezing temperatures has caused havoc north of us in the form of snow, ice, and other nastiness. I’ve lived in two cities outside of Mississippi, and they are among the areas most impacted by the storm system. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, it was 10 degrees earlier today with a windchill of negative 14. Their forecasted low tonight is 5 degrees with a windchill of negative 15. Stanton, Kentucky, isn’t much better with a temp around 13 degrees, a windchill of 2, and a forecasted low of 9 with a wind chill of negative 5. Oh, and in both places, snow has already fallen, and more is on the way.
I say all this to help us remember to be grateful and that the people of Israel were experiencing spiritual darkness and bitter cold. They felt as if no hope was to be had for them. Indeed, there were rabbis and others who knew of the prophecies promising a messiah, promising that Emmanuel would come, hope was alive, and God would deliver His people. But that was a long time ago. Many had given up, while others clung to the hope promised by Isaiah and others. Under the thumbs of people like the Romans and the Pharisees, the regular folks felt pressure from all sides. Pressure to conform to Roman culture, pressure to conform to the version of the faith that the Pharisees and Sadducees peddled. Even the Zealots had an influence demanding the people’s attention. People were crying out for the Messiah to come, for relief, crying out… for light.
Indeed, our God is a promise keeper. God has never broken a promise to His people, and he was not about to start breaking promises where a deliverer was concerned. The light of Christ was about to enter the world, relief was coming, and life was being given to the people who had waited so long! The warmth of the Holy Spirit was also coming to comfort God’s people. God’s prevenient grace was already assuring the people that help was on the way. On the night Jesus was born, everything changed. The prophecy was fulfilled, and a promise made long ago was kept. God had sent the long-promised deliverer.
As tomorrow is Christmas and we will be gathering to worship, we will not light the Christ candle tonight, but we do remember the night Christ was born. Look around and see the light that fills the sanctuary. Feel the warmth. If you’re joining us online, look at the light and feel the warmth around you. When Jesus came into the world as a baby, this was the spiritual light and warmth that had entered the world like never before. Grace and love were spilling into the world like never before. God’s people had been delivered. Today, because of the baby born in a stable somewhere in Bethlehem, we know true freedom from our sins, the warmth and light that only God can bring us. Love came down in a barn! Thanks be to God.