In a World Crying Out for Light
For all the dazzling Christmas lights displays that are going up, and the plans for a season of celebration and merry-making, it seems that our world is still shrouded in a fog of darkness and despair.
Just this last week, I was talking to a neighbour that we have been witnessing to. I listened to her lament the state of the world we are living in. 2023 has been a huge year, filled with pain and uncertainty for so many. On a broader scale, we have watched as the war against the Ukraine has dragged on now for close to two years. The war between Israel and Hamas, precipitated by the horrendous October 7 attack, has placed the world on a knife’s edge.
Closer to home, the seemingly endless round of interest rate increases, along with the dramatically escalating costs of living, are seeing more Australians than ever being forced into homelessness. Rising rates of youth crime are the focus of our daily news broadcasts. People all around us are desperately looking for hope but are simply at a loss to know where to find it.
In Isaiah 9, the promise from the prophet Isaiah was written to a people who were similarly despairing of the pain and grief of an uncertain and increasingly dangerous world. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles…. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isa 9:1-2).
When the Assyrians invaded in the year 722 BC, this northern area of Israel was especially devastated. The Assyrians carved out three provinces for themselves from the areas mentioned. For those who remained, it was indeed a season of great darkness and pain. But Isaiah’s word is one of hope in the face of despair. There was coming a day when the “light” would break forth! Joy would return! Peace would again be possible, not just in the sense of the cessation of human hostilities, but in terms of true and everlasting “peace with God”. In this wonderful Messianic promise, Isaiah speaks of a day when this region, once shrouded in darkness, would find that the light and life of God would dawn upon them. A child would be born, upon whose shoulders would be placed the mantle of governance and authority. He would be called the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).
This One, of course, was none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, whose earthly ministry was focused, for the main part, on this very region as attested to by Matthew’s direct quote from this passage in Matthew 4:15-16. Matthew made the unassailable connection. This Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, who grew up in Nazareth, lived and died and was raised to life again by the power of God, was none other than the “Light of the World” (Jh 8:12).
But the glorious privilege that He has given to us as his children is for us to be the sharers, the reflectors of his great light into our darkened world. Not only does he declare himself to be the Light of the world, but he reminds his followers in Matt 5:14, that we are also to be the “light of the world.”
In 1999, I had the privilege of visiting the Yad Vashem holocaust museum in Jerusalem. One of the buildings was dedicated to the memory of the one-and-a-half million Jewish children who lost their lives in the Holocaust. As I walked through this darkened building, there were thousands of what looked like “fairy lights” shining, and in the background, the names and ages of those children who had died were hauntingly read out. As I emerged from this confronting memorial, I was informed by our guide, that in that building, despite how it appeared, there was actually only one light, a single candle, but there were 1.5 million small mirrors, all of which reflected that one source of light.
What a powerful picture of our calling, in this age, at this time, to be individual reflectors of the glorious light and life of that One true light that has come into the world.
Your fellow servant,
Peter Francis – Principal