“We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. ‘And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.’” Luke 1:74-79 NLT
“The morning light from heaven is about to break upon us...” no sweeter words have fallen on the ears of those troubled by the hardships of 2020. Light shone into darkness. Peace offered amidst so much dissent. This had to have been felt by those ancient near-eastern Hebrews thousands of years ago. Thousands of years of a sacrificial systems of being made right before a Holy God. The concentrated presence of God limited to a single location—the tabernacle and the temple. Traveling mile after mile to Jerusalem on foot through desert and barren wilderness. Buying a sacrificial animal to atone for your sin and the sin of your family’s that year. Bloody, messy, assault on all your senses; your hand along with the priest’s to allow a guiltless animal hold your wretched darkness. Shadow of death. This was how ancient Israel dealt with their sin. And it offends us. Why such horror just to be made right with God. Why would God demand such practices?
Is it better that it became His Son? Is it more palatable that it became His only child? Come down from eternal heavenlies, put on human skin and walked among us? Glory in the midst of us. He became the bright morning sun breaking over the horizon to shine light on the darkness and shadow of death to “guide us to the path of peace.” Peace that drove Him to love with abandon. Love that drove Him to forgive His enemies and the betrayal of His friends. Love that drove Him to physical, psychological and emotional torment all so that our atrocities could be taken up and borne on His shoulders.
We are so quick to judge our ancient brothers and sisters for their “barbaric” practices, but how are we doing? Do we continue our lust for consumption by allowing third world countries to produce our goods through child slavery and forced labor? More, more, more we say and they continue to break their backs and lives for our demand. How about the sex industry? How many of us consume pornography regularly—setting aside the humanity of those we watch convincing ourselves they chose their lifestyle. We neglect to understand how desperation and traumatic pasts tend to lead people down the path of coercion. We could have conversations about racial inequality in our country or the treatment of immigrants or the broken foster and adoption systems or abortion or women’s rights or any number of controversial topics. Then we could argue about which travesty is the most important and how spineless we are to not feel outrage over every.single.one with equal ferocity.
Friends, I feel like we’ve argued enough. I believe it is time for some light to shine into the darkness and for the way of peace to be clear before us. Maybe if we had more compassion for those we argue against, we might be more persuasive in our passions. Maybe the fruit of our passions would produce benefit to us all, and shape hearts to do similarly. Maybe we could recognize that in human limitation we only have the capacity to give ourselves fully to one type of cause, and that dedicating our life that ONE thing is also a way of being faithful to humanity.
Jesus came to show us what compassion looks like. Jesus came in a surprising way... not loudly, boldly and in the kind of way we think changes the trajectory of cultures. He came as a baby. Light shining over the horizon. He came after years of silence. Sunrise breaking to chase away the darkness and shining brilliant life to those sitting in the shadow of darkness.
2020 felt like the shadow of darkness. It felt like peace was impossible, elusive and distant. My prayer for 2021 is that what was true two thousand years ago for my faith-forefathers is true for us today. The hope of an infant breaking into the darkness gives me hope for today. Jesus began a cultural tidal wave of change that reverberates into the present. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.‘ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.‘ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 NLT