Freedom from Darkness
As I write, the sun is shining. Given our recent weather in Atlanta, Georgia, this is no small thing. For five straight days we have endured dark clouds and rain. By day three, the grey days had begun to affect me. I felt sleepy and somber, overcome by the dreariness and wanting nothing more than to stay in bed and hibernate. I know I was not alone because this morning the sidewalks are full of people walking dogs, running, and riding bikes. People are in the park, chatting, laughing, and throwing frisbees. As I walk, people smile at me and wave, many commenting on the arrival of the sun. We are grateful to be in the light again.
Isaiah is speaking to people who have been living in another type of darkness for a very long time. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali have been conquered and forced to endure poverty and harsh treatment by those in power. This has gone on for generations, long enough for the people to feel as if they are in a “pitch-dark land” (ceb) with no way out. I imagine that many of them have given up or even have accepted that life is nothing more than their oppression.
Yet Isaiah is proclaiming that the people will see a great light. This light will be like no other. It will break through the darkness and shine across the land. It will bring freedom from their oppressors. And it will come in time; Isaiah declares the light will come before the people become “exhausted,” before they give up. The light will be a light of liberation, freeing them for a whole new way of being.
Lord, there are times in my life when I feel like I am in darkness, a darkness that will not lift. Yet you are the light that will never be extinguished. Help me to be still and recognize the signs of your light around me. Amen.
Sometimes we struggle with the challenges we face. If God is good and God is for us, then why do we experience pain and loss? Isaiah feels the sting of darkness and despair, and the psalmist has experienced days of distress. Yet both encourage themselves with the promise that God has not forgotten them. The light will come, as will the shouts of joy. The New Testament readings warn against following human leaders to the extent that we take our eyes off Christ. The Corinthian church has divided into factions that identify primarily with Paul or Peter, not Christ! The Gospel reading shows that Peter, like all other human leaders, is merely a disciple himself. Jesus is the one we should seek to follow.
Read Isaiah 9:1-4. How has God’s love freed you to find your calling?
Read Psalm 27:1, 4-9. When have you called out to God? How has God helped you turn your cries to praise?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. How have you experienced division within the body of Christ? How might a focus on Christ rather than particular faith leaders or denominations help you to repair division and work through differences?
Read Matthew 4:12-23. How have significant changes in your life (like a loved one’s death or a career change) allowed your ministry to grow?
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