At some point in our childhoods, many of us developed an aversion to the dark. I remember lying in my bed as a young boy with the LA Dodgers game playing softly on the radio, my eyes frantically searching the dark closet trying to discern what the moving shadows were and what dangers they posed. Growing up, we often conjure monsters and nightmares to explain our fear—but most of the time, it’s the darkness itself that leaves us deeply unsettled. The experience of darkness as a disorienting reality, full of the unknown, seems to be imprinted deeply on each of our souls. In Genesis 1, God separated light from darkness. This was a purposeful, creative act that was, in God’s view, good. Yet after Adam and Eve’s rebellious decision and the entry of sin into the world, darkness took on a new meaning. It wasn’t just “out there.” The darkness was in us and pushing close against us. In Jewish writings such as the Babylonian Talmud, darkness is a metaphor for unsettling disorientation, a dread coming over a person. It also means evil and sin that leave a person struggling for direction, identity, and an understanding of what’s in store. Similarly, Isaiah 9 uses the compound word tzalmavet—“deep darkness”—to describe the shadow of dark death residing in every human heart.
Isaiah 60:1–3 subtly echoes the familiar story in Genesis 1. Once again there is contrast and separation, light and darkness. But in Isaiah’s telling, the enveloping darkness will dissipate—not when the Lord, the author of creation, commands it but rather when he arrives in his fullness. Isaiah is prophesying Advent—the coming of the King—who himself is light to all who are in darkness.
This Advent season, Isaiah’s words are an invitation to remember the first Advent. How absolutely undramatic, yet how sublime as the Light of the World humbly came as a baby to confront the darkness of sin in all of us. Isaiah’s words are a celebration: “Arise, shine, for your light has come” (v. 1). Light illumines our hearts to understand not only the depth of our sin but also the completed saving work of Jesus for us.
Isaiah’s bright words remind us of our calling. We can’t greedily hoard this light as we await his second Advent. The light is meant to brilliantly emit out of us so that the nations and our neighbors across the street might see Jesus clearly as the Light of the World (John 8:12). When the gospel of Jesus shines in us more deeply, it can only reflect back out of us through the light of worship and the sharing of the Good News.
Jon Nitta is the pastor of spiritual formation, discipleship and small groups at Calvary Church in Valparaiso, IN.
This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at http://orderct.com/advent.
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