Lights (Letters to a Samuel Generation)

“And a light shined in the cell”
And there was not any wall,
And there was no dark at all,
Only Thou, Immanuel.

Light of Love shined in the cell,
Turned to gold the iron bars
Opened windows to the stars
Peace stood there as sentinel.

Dearest Lord, how can it be
That Thou art so kind to me?
Love is shining in my cell,
Jesus, my Immanuel.

Amy Carmichael, from Toward Jerusalem

Darkness is a wearying thing.

We can only stumble around in it for so long before our eyes begin to weaken from the strain of trying to see, our feet grow tired of fighting to keep a steady foothold, our spirits are cast down for the lack of anything beautiful or good.

For many long years, there was nothing but darkness. Here and there a glimmer came through—in a fire on a mountain called Sinai, in the songs of a shepherd boy named David, and in the hearts of those who sought for something more than constant fog and darkness.

To a man called Isaiah came the word:

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

And so light came. It came in the form of a child, who grew to be a man who never lost His child’s heart. Light radiated from Him in the form of love that would not surrender to the forces of evil that buffeted Him. It came in the form of a soul so pure it was never once tainted by the stain of wrong motives or hidden pride.

Those who loved light ran to Him. But not one left His presence without having been in some way wounded, because light will not leave one corner of darkness untouched; and we all have some black thing we would like to keep safely tucked under our coats, right next to our hearts, where nothing is allowed to touch it.

Some, having seen the light, took their precious blackness and cradled it close to themselves, whispering soothingly to it as they walked away. Others gave it to the Light-Bearer to be annihilated. Thus did the woman at the well, who exulted, “He told me everything I ever did!” So did Peter, as he wept after finally seeing what cowardice was in his own heart, and surrendered even his failure to God.

Christmas is a celebration full of light. Lights on the tree and on the telephone poles downtown, lights reflecting off the waterfront and glowing through windows. In our churches we light Advent candles and sing songs about goodness and grace.

This year the Christmas Child lives in the hearts of many. Many others are facing, like Mary, the implications of having the Son of God born in them.

Jesus no longer walks the earth as a human being, but He lives and works in many such creatures. The hands that do His work are human hands, the feet that walk His paths are human feet. But it is the same now as it has ever been: those who choose darkness will eventually meet their death in one of its pits; and those who choose light will be forever on a great journey toward purity, toward good, toward eternal Christmas.

It’s not always easy to be a light. People do not like to have their secret sins touched. You don’t always have to preach to expose things; sometimes just the fact of your being will bring conviction to others. And so it’s not your words that will be rejected, but your being.
Even so, it’s not always easy to walk in light. Sometimes the darkness looks better to us. Darkness gives us our privacy; it allows us direct our own paths, even if those paths inevitably end in snares.

When we’re walking in light we give up our right to darkness. We have no more right to be offended or angry; no more right to judge; no more right to live our own lives without thought to others.

Don’t forget, darkness is wearying. Privacy gets lonely. Anger becomes a bitter taste in our mouth. Living our own life becomes empty and pointless.

This isn’t a very Christmas-y message; there’s no tinsel or holly in it. But light is, ultimately, what Christmas is about. Not one of us got to be there when Christ first took a breath of our air. But if we walk in the light, we will witness the miracle of Christmas again and again—in our own hearts, and in the hearts of those we touch.

The choice, of course, belongs to you. Will you slip quietly off into the darkness, content to live half in and half out of light?

Or will you take another step on the High Road, the way of the Father of Lights?

One more step toward eternal Christmas.


This is an excerpt from Letters to a Samuel Generation, a book about knowing the mind and heart of God. I will be posting from this work until I finish Seeds 2 and can get back to writing new Matthew commentary later this winter. I hope it’s a blessing to you!


Photo by Kevin Fitzgerald on Unsplash




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