It frightens them. The further they drive, out into this “nowhere,” the more the darkness presses in and its feel of menace grows, as they strain ever harder to see the unseen ahead on the twisting road. Arriving at last, they sigh relief, pull up our drive, where light spills out windows and makes pale patches on ground, and a back entrance lamp beams like a beacon over black sea. And they clamber from their car, exclaiming, “It’s so dark out here!”
The suburbs they’ve left, with street lamps on corners and bright-lit malls and industrial parks, and urban spots that never see dark but in blackouts — these never give them real night like here when moon is hiding in her shy stage of orbit or when clouds conceal heaven and not a single star twinkles above.
And yet, we do have lights, though scattered — dusk-to-dawn ones on farms, and yellow glow pouring out windows of other houses up and down roads, making multiple blotches on grass. Still, they say, “So dark!”
What must have been the shepherds’ darkness, wherein they sat, or lay to take their turn at sleep, or walked with torch held high to keep their check on vulnerable sheep while the wilderness howled around them?
Explosion of brilliance! Shocking! Blinding! Assault on heart and mind!
And a figure in the brilliance. Figure with a man’s voice booming in their language: “Fear not.”
At which point they must be fallen, knees gone collapsed on chilling ground, unable to obey the command, as the figure speaks on:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah!) the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The long-awaited Messiah, a baby in a manger?
Nevertheless, now bursts forth more light, and a whole host of shining beings sound forth high praise to the God of Heaven and news of joy to Earth.
And so, after angels depart, the shepherds go! No hesitating here. No reluctance.
They must have left their flocks — or gathered them with a skeleton crew who could go when the first group returned…
And because they went, they saw. The Light of the World in a tiny face. Bread of Heaven in a sheep’s bread box.
And because they went and saw, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. “They made widely known” what the angel said, and left their hearers marveling and Mary pondering. Nor could they keep from praising and glorifying God for the wonder they’d lived.
Once I sat in darkness. Deep, impenetrable by earthly light. And when God shined His beams of truth and hope and life eternal, they stirred my heart to hallelujahs even solitary in my house.
And so I wonder…
Do not those in deepest darkness notice first and best the smallest spark? So when the Great Light dawns, it overwhelms with ecstasy? Once black-blinded, now beholding the spectacular, the eternally enormous, who could own a greater awe?
I’d rather not have known the darkness. I wish it on no one. But ah, it makes the Light fantastic, and leaves me never ignorant of my constant need for it.
They “who dwelt in darkness” went. Hastened. Told. And rejoiced and praised and glorified the Author of the Light.
Rejoicing and praising with them today.
Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him... -Psalm 72:9
To read Luke 2:8-20, hover your cursor, and click on link to read more.
Seeking the Christ Child (in the Old Testament)
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I am searching for prophecies and foreshadowings of the Christ child, book by book. I plan to post (nearly) every weekday (leaving myself some margin) a short peek at some hint or promise of the coming baby who would make all the difference. Like the wise men, I’ll be Seeking the Christ Child, but in Old Testament promises and foreshadowings, and sharing what I find. I hope you’ll join me, because if it turns out as rewarding as the past spring’s pre-Easter explorations, this focus could make this one of the richest, most blessed Christmas seasons yet.