“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:1-3
Deep in the caverns of the earth, like Carlsbad in New Mexico, the blackest physical darkness is found where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. The Book of Jude speaks about “blackest darkness” when it describes the fate of rebellious men and women who are blemishes at the love feasts of the saints: “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Today’s text speaks about “thick darkness” and elsewhere the Bible refers to “deep darkness” which is to describe a most complete and terrifying darkness. While living interminably without any physical light can hardly be imagined, the Bible is referring to a thorough darkness of the soul, as well as physical sight. Physical darkness can be endured for a limited amount of time, as long as there is hope that sight will be eventually restored, as those who are afflicted with physical blindness look to the healing hand of their Savior; if not in this life, in the new heavens and the new earth. The darkness of the soul, however, drives people to take their life because the soul-pain is so great it cannot be endured. Suicide has become an epidemic in dealing with the deep darkness of the soul.
Most of us have known others who have or are in the pits of despair, in thick darkness of soul; or you have even experienced it yourself. Relief seems to be nowhere in sight; there are no magic words of comfort which can bring relief. It is a terrifying place to be. This is not only a description in the Bible of the state of mankind in a fallen world where the light of the gospel is ignored or rejected, it is apparently a description of what lies beyond this life: hell, the blackest darkness and the eternal isolation it brings. (Jude 13)
Waiting for advent, over the centuries before the entrance of the promised Messiah, and since his coming into the world for a short time to accomplish our salvation, and now the centuries waiting for the Savior’s return, there is a darkness among the peoples of the earth straining for the light. In every culture you see, among every tribe, nation, race and language group a yearning for light, because the darkness is so debilitating. There are always those who live life with the philosophy of “let us live, eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” but invariably they are eventually bitten by the darkness of tragedy, disease, destroyed relationships, addictions, and lonely death. The world’s “Vanity Fair” is a fleeting experience and never the lasting state of being it promises to the ignorant.
This week I spoke at the Funeral, and then Graveside Service of a dear friend, mentor, and fellow elder. As you lower the coffin with his body on a cold, gray day into the cold earth to be covered with six feet of dirt, there is a fleeting thought of the darkness “down there” for that loved one, but the thought flees quickly with the remembrance of the sure promise from Jesus, “Today you will be with me in paradise!” The soul of the believer is immediately translated into the Savior’s presence and those who have gone before; the body in which we lived for these earthly years awaits the resurrection. Just as Joseph’s bones were set aside and placed in the sight of all his brethren in the midst of Goshen in Egypt (Hebrews 11:22) to remind them of their promised exodus out of slavery to the promised land, so the bones (the grave sites) of our loved ones remind us of our coming resurrection and “soon” exodus to a new heavens and new earth. This all happened as examples for us today (I Corinthians 10:6) that we might have hope and not be overcome by the darkness.
Hence, Advent! This is a time for hope! He is coming! The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.
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