A light in the darkness


For years the priests had copied the words. As each scroll wore out they’d make a new one, copying the words they knew meant hope:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

But what did they mean and where was this hope? Centuries passed. Where was the God of the old stories? Were they even true?

Two hundred, three hundred years went by. A foreign power invaded and looked as if they were there to stay. Darkness stole over the land, hope faded. Nothing from God. Radio silence.

The bureaucracy of these invaders turned the land upside down. Everyone had to travel to their ancestors village to register so the state could tax them. One young couple, among others made homeless by politics, set off.

They cover a distance equal to the journey from Newcastle to London, on foot. (A donkey is a later addition to the story.) Walking from village to village or sleeping in the open, the days are hot but the nights bitter. And she’s pregnant.

Arriving at their destination, the inn is full but there’s a cow shed. The innkeeper’s not heartless but what can he do, the woman is about to give birth. She goes into labour. We don’t know who delivers the baby — her husband or the village midwife perhaps. It’s cold and refugees from the displacement fill every room. They wrap the baby in some cloth and lay him in the feeding trough to keep him warm.

To the puzzlement of both parents some shepherds interrupt them. They’ve come looking for a new baby on the strength of a light they’ve seen out on the hills. The shepherds kneel by the small child then go away, wondering.

Someone takes pity on the little family and invites them into a home in the village. A bit later some Persian astrologers also come to the house in search of the child. Led there, they say, by a new light in the sky. They leave money and embalming spices when they go. His mother wonders what this all means.

The parents faith requires them to take the child on another long journey. They have to take him to the temple so they can perform a ritual to dedicate him to God. An elderly priest, who sees the child, says he will be a great leader and save his people. But this will have serious consequences for his parents. ‘A sword will pierce your heart’, is how he describes it to the child’s mother.

Back home, with a toddler now, life refuses to leave them alone. They have to flee, again, because the local king has heard of their son. People have been whispering about a child who will be king, and he is paranoid. “Kill the child” he orders.

But the family have gone. In their rage, and fearful of displeasing their employer, the soldiers slaughter all the baby boys in the village.

So God comes to His world. A light in the darkness. Not to a palace, not to a clean, sterile hospital. In the dirt of village life, among the poor of a conquered country.

Much later, someone remembers the old prophecy:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

When the child grew, He said this about Himself – “I am the light of the world”.

They killed Him for this claim.

But it’s the kind of light you can’t extinguish with nails.

Happy Christmas.

About Andrew Halfacre

I can help you figure out what you really want and recover the motivation to go after it.
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