Here in the UK, it gets pretty dark pretty early. As I write this, it is officially the darkest night of the year. I took the kids for a walk this afternoon and it was dark before 4pm. We live in a semi-rural part of the country, so we made our way home by the occasional streetlamp and the twinkling of Christmas lights. I’ll come back to them later.
It’s pretty dark over here. A new and more transmissible strain of COVID-19 has been detected … 36,000 more cases today.
It’s pretty dark over here at the moment anyway. A new and more transmissible strain of COVID-19 has been detected. It’s spreading at an alarming rate, with 36,000 more cases today. Most of the nation is now in the highest level of lockdown. Shops have closed in what was meant to be the busiest time of the year. Royal Post have said they won’t get Christmas cards out in time. Most of Europe have now closed their border with the UK. Lorries are stranded in Kent, unable to cross the channel. People are stuck at airports, unable to get home to their families for Christmas. People are panic buying, worried that all our fresh produce imported from the continent is going to run out. And yet, with people no longer allowed to travel to meet loved ones, there is going to be a lot of leftover turkey and pudding. Christmas is cancelled.
I get why people make such a big deal about Christmas, even if they don’t believe in Jesus. It’s about family. It’s about being festive. And especially here in the UK, it’s about having something cheerful to celebrate in the gloomy mid-winter. But Christmas is also a mask. A reporter on the news said tonight, “On the darkest day of the year, people are looking for light.” And then they turned to a story about Christmas lights. Christmas lights! This is our answer to the darkness we find ourselves in. I think for many people who don’t believe in Jesus, Christmas itself is one big Christmas light. A twinkly, artificial distraction to lift our spirits from all the gloom around us. Devoid of any real meaning, it just looks pretty and makes us smile, before we take it all it down and get on with it in the New Year. But after a year like this, Christmas lights just aren’t going to cut it.
Every few weeks my son asks me, “Why did God send the coronavirus?” I’ve explained that this is part of living in a cursed world, a result of our sin. I’ve explained that God sends trials to his children to help them grow in their faith. I’ve explained that we don’t really know why this has happened, but we do know that one day Jesus is going to return and make everything right again.
I wondered if God was perhaps slowly taking down all the artificial lights that we have put up around us. Slowly removing all the trivial things that distract us from the truth: That we are actually all in darkness … without hope and without God.
He asked me again today as we were going for our walk. And I wondered, as we looked at the Christmas lights, if God was perhaps slowly taking down all the artificial lights that we have put up around us. Slowly removing all the trivial things that distract us from the truth: That we are actually all in darkness. A darkness that is much darker than we realise. A world of sin and death, without hope and without God.
There is an old Puritan prayer that reminds us that it is in our darkness that we see God’s light. This is my prayer for Christmas. That as God takes down our artificial lights, we see more easily the light of Christ. For that is what Christmas is about – the people walking in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2).
The Valley of Vision
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
(Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett – purchase link)