Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, December 3

By Fran Wheeler

Shadow and Starlight

Read: Isaiah 60:1-2 NIV

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Christmas sometimes feels unreal. Around us we see people who are excited, laughing, and celebrating. Mall music proclaims, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And we play along, often with tired smiles and over-crowded calendars. But sometimes we wonder how we can even survive a joyful holiday in all the darkness surrounding us.

But a close look at scripture reveals a story filled with light and glory, but also tempered by fear and loss. Amid miraculous moments lie circumstances as difficult and heartbreaking as we can imagine. What do we do with this paradox? 

To preserve the miraculous, we tend to ignore the shadows within the Christmas story. Bright angels mask the fears of a young girl and man whose dreams are shattered. The heavenly joy Mary shared with Elizabeth makes it easy to forget the new somber reality of her life. The great star, singing angels, adoring shepherds, and amazing Magi help us forget that the baby was born far from home and family. Even when he is presented to the Lord, the prophet speaks frightening words: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” As the story winds down, King Herod sends other baby boys to their deaths, so Mary and Joseph can’t even go back home, but must flee to Egypt. 

In spite of the exciting and beautiful moments, Mary indeed had much to ponder in her heart.

What is the lesson for us? Even as darkness overshadows the miraculous story with sadness, we can focus our gaze upon the light that shines through. Because Jesus arose, his words ring loud and clear, bringing the desperately needed message of hope. Because of his words, we know that even in our darkness, the light is coming.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 NIV


Father, as we celebrate, help us to recognize and give thanks for the sacrifices made on our behalf and walk in the everlasting light brought to us by Christ.

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