Friday, December 2, 2011

Everlasting Light

"The sun will no more be your light by
nor will the brightness of the moon
shine on you,
for the LORD will be your everlasting
and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
BoldThen will all your people be
and they will possess the land
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
The least of you will become a
the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the LORD;
in its time I will do this swiftly."

Isaiah 60: 19-22

The seasons are again turning, and there has been an unmistakably wintry feel in the air for the last week: low temperatures, but more than that, a biting, chilly wind and the perpetual shroud of gray that looks like it should yield snow. Also, it has been getting dark very early; in fact, the sun is already beginning to set by the time school gets out at 3:30.

Darkness. It's just part of the fabric of these winter months in Tokyo. It makes me so grateful for the ability to flip a switch and bring light into a room. I suppose that regardless of what winter in Israel was like, the people had a very different understanding of darkness. While electricity enables us to keep working and living after the sun sets, the Israelites' options were somewhat more limited.

Everlasting light. That's quite a promise. It's a promise that we may be somewhat numb to today--though lightbulbs are anything but everlasting, we can easily buy into the illusion that we have the option of everlasting light. The Israelites knew better: lamps run out of oil. Torches burn out. The sun sets. The moon wanes. In their experience, there was no such thing as everlasting light.

And yet, this is the imagery that God paints in describing the coming of Christ. I bet it would have packed a punch for the Israelites, for whom the darkness was something unconquerable, ominous and frightening.

...Have we, today, really conquered the darkness? Maybe we've achieved limited victories against physical darkness, but against spiritual darkness we have made little headway. We are every bit in the dark as the Israelites were, and are in need of that same, spectacular everlasting light.

If you've tried to wander around in a dark room, you know full well that the absence of light can mess with your sense of space. You forget where the coffee table is, and bang your shin against the corner; you knock something off a shelf; you bump into the wall... it's confusing, it's chaotic, and you make mistakes that you wouldn't make if the room were illuminated.

Sin--spiritual darkness--does the same thing to our sense of justice, our sense of right and wrong. We trample over things; we make bad decisions; we damage ourselves and others in ways that we wouldn't if we were close to God instead of rebelling.

So the promise of everlasting light is a promise for salvation from sin and all of the sorrow that sin invariably causes. The words that conclude this passage promise that the LORD would bring this light swiftly--for the Israelites, it would be hundreds of years before Christ was born. Today, we wait--swiftly will mean what it will. May your return be swift, oh Everlasting Light!

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