I wanted to be happy. After all, Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But somehow the heavy weight pressing on my heart made me feel lost, sad, and even guilty for not fully rejoicing in the joy of the advent season. It was during this time that I stumbled upon a poem entitled “Christmas in Dark Places” by Glen Scrivener. Scrivener begins the poem by recounting his experiences of Christmases growing up in Australia, which is very different from those we experience in the Northern Hemisphere. He recalls warm and sun-drenched summer Christmas days filled with barbecues, the beach, and games. But as a teenager, he moved to the United Kingdom, and then became acquainted with the cold, chilly Christmases of winter.
There’s a metaphorical shift at this point in the poem, and it’s clear he’s no longer speaking of literal summer and winter. Scrivener delves into the dark and cold places of Christmas — the places that holiday cheer cannot permeate. Trials. Fear. Loneliness. Sorrow. As I read the poem for the first time, I could instantly relate and connect with the message of Scrivener’s poetry. In my heart, it felt that summer was gone forever, and in its place was winter — cold, hard, and dark.
But in his next stanza, Scrivener quickly makes a very powerful assertion:
Our summer’s gone, if you’ve been around,
This thought surprised me. How could the darkness be the place for Christmas? It drove me to the Scriptures to see what I could be missing. As I looked at the Christmas story, and other passages related to it, I quickly began to see that Scrivener is right. Christmas comes to us in the dark.
Consider the Reason for Christmas.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin and death entered what had been a perfect world. Now, there would be innumerable difficulties, hurts, and sorrows. And worst of all, mankind was separated from and at odds against God. But God, in His grace and kindness, promised a Deliverer would come and restore what man had broken. Furthermore, He would send His own Son to be our sacrifice, to bridge the chasm we could never cross on our own. Hope began to glimmer again. A multitude of generations waited, hoped, and watched for the Savior. They lived in times of intense darkness but looked ahead for the Light who had been promised. The prophet Isaiah reminds God’s people of His promise while they yet waited in the dark for the Messiah to come.
“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 … For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:2, 6a, 7b
700 years later, when the time finally came for Christ’s birth, God’s people were in the bleakest of circumstances. The Jews lived under oppressive Roman rule, dwelt largely in poverty, and were grossly manipulated by the false religious piety of the Pharisees. Christmas truly came in the dark.
Consider the One Who Is Christmas.
There are many names used to describe Jesus throughout the Bible, but none so telling and impactful as this metaphor — He is the Light. Think about the qualities of light for a moment. Light allows us to see and move. It provides energy, warmth, sustenance, and growth. Light can even shape our moods and impact our emotions. In short, light is essential for life. In the Bible, there are 12 times that Christ is directly called the Light and another 25 times where the name is implied. Without light in our lives on this earth, we would perish, and so it is with Christ as well. He is our Light. By His incarnation and birth, He brought light into the darkness. His light brings hope, healing, and life.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5
These two considerations hit me anew as I walked through my own darkness. Christmas isn’t magical because of decorations, activities, or experiences. It’s not about the music, gifts, or even family. Christmas isn’t a time of joy and wonder for any other reason except that the Light of the world shone brightly into the deepest darkness the night Christ was born. It wasn’t just the light of the glory of angels singing to shepherds or the bright star that also heralded His arrival. It was Christ — the light of hope. God’s promise to Adam and Eve thousands of years before was finally coming to fruition. Redemption was nigh!
For those who are hurting this Christmas, may I encourage you?
It is okay to weep and mourn, to feel the pain of whatever trial you may be bearing. But know this — Christmas isn’t for just the carefree, the happy, or those who seem to be living life with ease. Christmas comes to those of us in the dark, too. It did that first Christmas Day, and it still does. His light shone brightly the night of His birth and it grows brighter still with each passing year. It does not always feel that way, but take courage, my friend, because it is growing in strength as we approach His return. His kingdom is growing and spreading with each passing day. The darkness of this earthly existence cannot overcome His light. Whatever we face here, no matter how painful, heavy, or dark will never be greater than the grace, hope, and light He gives. We can always find joy in that.
I encourage you to read Glen Scrivener’s poem as well as the Scriptures that foretell and recount Christ’s birth. Have courage. Take heart. Look to our Light. And find great joy in knowing that Christmas comes to us in the dark.
No doubt, all of us have experienced a Christmas shrouded by the darkness of grief or loss at one time or another in our lifetime—if we haven't yet, most likely we will in the future. If you're one that has, how have you used Scripture, and the promise of the One Who is Christmas, to find comfort in that season?
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