Published on December 11th, 2017 | by Austin Bonds
When Christmas is Dark
December is a season of light. Literally. Drop by your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, or Target and locate the large space allocated for Christmas décor. Note the abundance of lights. String lights. Net lights. Icicle lights. Rope lights. Mini Lights. Dome lights. Lights for the front door and for the gutters. Lights for the trees and for the sidewalks. Lights for the bushes and the wreaths. Yes, electricity bills will certainly be elevated when that January statement from the local power company provider arrives in the mailbox.
Why do people love light? John provides a hint, writing, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5). Light provides visibility, clarity, security. Light dispels the dark at the flip of a switch.
Light provides visibility, clarity, security. Light dispels the dark at the flip of a switch.
Sadly, many fathers and mothers and sons and daughters will be wrestling down inner darkness this Christmas. The switch is still in the off position. It will be their first December 25th without someone they dearly love. Whether it’s expected or unexpected, death is a difficult reality to spiritually process. Death does not respect gender or age or ethnicity or economic status; what’s more, it casts a heavy shadow in a month marked by the proliferation of light.
But thanks be to God, death will not have the last word. The switch has been flipped.
The prophet Hosea writes, “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (13:14)
The apostle Paul references Hosea in his letter to the church in Corinth, writing, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55) Death has no victory and no sting because Christ triumphed over the grave and defeated death with his atoning death on the cross. (1 Peter 1:3)
Remarking on the subject of great loss as an encouragement to others seems lacking in heart if it isn’t birthed from a place of personal pain. In other words, a shared experience fosters mutual strength. My earthly father breathed his last on December 20, 2016. His death wasn’t completely unexpected, though nothing prepares any child for a visit to the hospital to bid a parent farewell for the last time. Though we were estranged in the years prior to his passing, all was set right before his departure to meet Jesus.
I’ve never read many books on the subject of life after death, but one of the recurring words I do hear associated with death is light.
People speak of seeing a bright light of some kind. And why not? For those who have been restored in Christ, why wouldn’t meeting the eternal God be a moment replete with light? John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation,” declares the psalmist.
For those who have been restored in Christ, why wouldn’t meeting the eternal God be a moment replete with light?
Like me, if this Christmas season finds you confronting the absence of a beloved family member for the first time, consider this short essay an exhortation to lift your eyes to the hills to the one that made the hills – the One who is the complete and full source of your enduring strength. (Psalm 121)
Remember too that while praying in a season like this seems trite at first glance, don’t hold back in expressing the full weight of your emotions to the Almighty. He can handle them all. Cast all your cares at the cross to the One who cared for you first.
Also, avoid isolation. The pull to be anywhere other than in the presence of family members and friends is strong, but choosing to partake in community is a wise choice for a bruised heart. Jesus said that he is present where two or three gather together in his name. (Matthew 18:20)
Finally, there’s great comfort in knowing that departed loved ones now rest eternally in a residence of light. John, the author of Revelation, captures a grand vision of heaven, writing, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp.” (21:23)
The glory of God is bigger and brighter and grander than every Christmas bulb on earth strung together end to end. So, may the lights you see this Christmas serve as a reminder that the Light shines everlasting– from the beginning of time to its coming end.
The Light still shines in the midst of loss.