December 25, 2015
The Light Has Dawned
By Skip Heitzig
During the Christmas season, there are lights everywhere. Here in New Mexico, our expression comes in the form of luminarias, brown paper bags with candles inside. Displaying lights at Christmas is a tradition that goes back all the way to the Middle Ages, when people lit bonfires on roads and in churchyards to speak of the birth of Christ.
In Matthew 4:13-16, there's a beautiful description of Jesus as the Light: "And leaving Nazareth, [Jesus] came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.'"
Matthew was quoting Isaiah, who was able to look through his prophetic lens far into the future and see a glimmer of light that would dawn on Israel: "The people who walked in darkness…" (Isaiah 9:2). Notice Matthew changed this and said, "The people who sat in darkness." It was as if the darkness was so thick around them that they gave up trying to navigate. It's a picture of hopelessness, which is appropriate for that time.
At the time of Jesus Christ, the world sat in darkness politically. Rome was in charge of everything. Caesar Augustus could sit in Rome and wield his iron fist, and that was felt even in the region of Galilee and in Jerusalem. Rome did bring relative peace to the world—the Pax Romana—but it was an enforced peace.
The world was also in darkness economically. The Pax Romana cost big bucks, so Rome taxed the people. You might think we have it bad nowadays, but under Roman rule, there were taxes simply for being alive, and then there were the income, import, ground, fish, and cart taxes, among many others.
Also, the world sat in darkness spiritually. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a Jew in Jerusalem just before the time of Christ, when there had been no prophetic voice at all for 400 years straight? Heaven was absolutely silent. Historians tell us that this produced a yearning in the Jewish people more intense than any other time in history for their Messiah. They longed for His light.
And that light came when Jesus was born, when God turned on the light and changed human history. It was like the sun had left the sky and come to earth. And that bright a light does something to people. It's like when you walk outside after being in a dark theater: you put your hand over your eyes and say, "Oh, man. Give me the darkness. I can't handle this."
Essentially that's what people did when Jesus came: "The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). This still happens every Christmas. People will put up lights and even a little manger scene, but when it comes to the adult Jesus—who came to deliver people from their darkness and show them the way of light—most people put their hands over their eyes and don't want anything to do with Him.
You might be sitting in darkness today, so to speak, whether it's economic, relational, physical—or spiritual: your sin has alienated you from God, and you feel emptier and emptier as the days go on. Today, I challenge you to step out of the shadows into the light of who Jesus Christ is, and walk in the light as He is in the light. Come to Him and let Him set your life aglow—and, believe me, He will.
And if you already know Him, I pray that you'll let His light shine through you like never before to the family and friends around you.
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