In the midst of Advent, my mind keeps returning to the theme of light birthed in the darkness. Hope arrives not on fairy dust and wings, but through weeping, loss and pain—through childbirth, of all things—excruciating and beautiful at the same time.
I look at the world around us, full of violence, racism, hate, fear, and thousands of displaced people. Then I am reminded of Matthew 2:16-18 and the genocide that erupted on the heels of Jesus’ birth, with kings fighting for their own kingdom—even murdering children under the age of two to secure it:
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”
This is the context, the darkness in which the light of the world was born, where there is “weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more…”
What frightens me is the thought that this light had to come at the expense of so much darkness. How could God allow this to happen? What kind of war was going on that such a sacrifice had to be paid so that the Savior of the World could rest his little head in a manger?
What kind of ugly and violent struggle was fought with angels and demons in the heavenly realms so that God’s great rescue plan could go forward? Jesus, so innocent, fragile, and small arrives in the midst of violence, turmoil, and murder. The sound of angels singing praises among shepherds is followed by the sound of weeping mothers crying out for their dying children. This paradox astounds me.
So Advent is the season of hopeful anticipation in the midst of waiting in the darkness. This darkness, it seems, painfully surrounds the light like a lion waiting to pounce. Light and Dark. It is all over Jesus’ story.
As we yearn and wait in the midst of the dark nights of our souls, a brilliant light can shine in stark contrast to the darkness, if we let it. We must all look for our star of Bethlehem, those glimpses of hope on the horizon that lead us to an even greater light at the end of the story—King Jesus, the light himself.
More than ever, I want to believe that John’s words are true, that “in him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
Right now I feel overcome with the darkness of the world; there is so much of it to take in that it feels insurmountable. John reminds us that even though darkness appears like a threatening beast, it is really nothing more than a shadow that the light will cast aside in due time. The morning will come and with it, evil will vanish like a waning shade in shifting sun.
This Advent, as I anticipate Jesus’ birth and his return, I am learning that the things that can only grow in the shadows sometimes shine the greatest light in the end.
May we always be willing to say with Mary, regardless of the cost, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
Bette Lynn Dickinson has been on staff with InterVarsity for 5 years. She planted Imago Dei Arts Community, InterVarsity’s first Arts plant. As an artist, Bette connects her journey as a painter, photographer, and writer in Kalamazoo with ministry to artists. She graduated from WMU with a BA in 2008, a Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2011, and was ordained with the Reformed Church in America in 2014 as a Specialized Minister with InterVarsity. Bette and her husband love being parents for their son, Isaiah. You can read more from Bette at www.bettedickinson.com.
The blog is an avenue for staff and student leaders to hear from the visionary leaders of Collegiate Ministries about theological formation, discipleship, chapter planting, chapter growth, and other key ministry themes for campus work.