Advent can be a time to refocus our thoughts on God’s promises. This one from the ninth chapter of the prophet Isaiah holds special meaning for me: “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish . . . . The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
I still remember when I stared into the face of my own darkness. September 17, 1972. In one of my rare reflective moments I cringed at the memories flooding my mind, memories of promises to God I’d broken. Memories of people – so many people – I’d hurt. Memories of my failures and cowardice and betrayals. I knew on September 17 my life was dark. But even then, I didn’t know how dark it really was.
At least twice over the preceding few years I’d told God I didn’t want Him in my life. I didn’t want His rules fettering my fun.
Fun. That’s what I called what I was doing. Using others for my own purposes. The lusts. The drugs. The drunkenness. My volatile temper and mean-spirited mouth. The ripples of my darkness, even 43 years later, still unsettle my life. I wonder if those ripples still influence the lives of those who crossed my path so many years ago.
But God. I love those two words when they appear in together in Scripture.
I was dead in darkness, but God’s incredible mercy and compassion overlooked my earlier rejections and once again shinned His light on my desperate need. Once again God offered me the way out of my despair. Only those who’ve known such darkness can know what it is like when God’s light illuminates the way out.
This time, unlike those other times in my life, this time when I saw His light, I followed it to Golgotha’s cross.
That is why Advent, for me, is a time for looking back – for looking back to the time when God sent His Son to a filthy manger to shine for me the way out of shame and remorse and gloom and anguish and darkness.
And that is why I am writing this reflection – to assure you on the authority of God’s promises, Advent can also be the same for you. All you need to do is agree with God about your own darkness, and ask Him to light your way out.
And as He does for everyone who asks – He will shine the light for you on Golgotha’s cross.