O Little Town of Bethlehem: The Light in Our Dark Streets

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent; A time when we usher in the Christmas season with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Each year our church does an advent devotional booklet written by members of our congregation. Our theme this year is Christmas Carols.   For this first week of advent, I thought I’d share with you one that I wrote (a few weeks ago to meet the deadline).  It may seem dark, but I hope you see the hope and light shining through the words. 

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 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee to-night.

As I sit here in what appears to be one of my brain fog days, trying to conjure up Christmas thoughts on the day after Halloween, not to mention I need to gear up for giving thanks, I find myself wishing I could just hibernate for the next several weeks. It might have something to do with the cold trying to gain momentum as I type, or it could be all the muddy swirl going on in the world around us, close to home even. The news is full of shootings, unhinged politicians, drugs, and mystery illnesses just to name a few.  It’s enough to make even the most stoic among us cringe and say wake me up when it’s over.

If only it were that easy to just hibernate through the bad times. But that’s not how it works. We are told in scripture that in this world we will have trouble.  I guess the world has decided to live up to its reputation.  However, trouble does not have to define us.  God always has the antidote to trouble.  He made specific provision for trouble over two thousand years ago with the arrival of Baby Jesus.  He sent him, not to save us from the world or to shield us from trouble, but to save us in spite of the world, to save us from our sin and help us in our trouble.  He wants to help the whole world in its trouble.

If ever there was a time that the whole world needs help I’d say it’s about now.  As I read the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem I am encouraged because I see the light of Christ shining in the dark streets of the world.  “The hopes and fears of all the years are met…”  All the years tells me that we are not the only generation that needs help in our troubles.  If you research history you will find that each generation since the dawning of man has had its share of trouble. There have been dark streets full of secrecy and evil; full of plans orchestrated by the enemy; full of fear.  But if you look closely, even in the darkest night there has been a light shining.  There has been hope residing next to fear.

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That shining light began long before the baby was sent to a lowly manger.  All throughout the Old Testament scriptures the thread of God’s provision, our hope, was told. Early in the book of Genesis we are confronted with the reality of sin and the need for salvation; In Genesis 49:10 (ESV) we hear of a ruler who will come, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. And in Isaiah 1:11(ESV) it was prophesied, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

In the New Testament, we see Jesus himself, the great light shining for all to see. Even in his darkest hour, he rose forth victorious and every generation since then has had Godly men and women rise up to be the light in a dark world and show them the love of Jesus.  So yes, there will be fear and trouble and plenty of it some days, but the gift of hope and light has been given.  Freely given:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

                                 O Lord, hear our prayer:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray! Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Open our hearts to receive you still. Enter in I pray. Amen.

Grace in the hope of everlasting light,

Teresa L Hardymon

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31:30 – Cross Light

“The cross sheds light for souls who stumble in darkness.” –Sadie

Are you afraid of the Light?

As a young child I was afraid of the dark, so my parents found a nightlight that said “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  (Psalm 56:3).  I would lie in bed at night repeating that verse to calm my fears.  It helped me learn to trust instead of be afraid of the dark.

I love light.  To this day, if I am home alone at night there will be light.  And during the daylight I love to open the curtains and let light flood the room.  Sunlight gives me a renewed sense of hope and lifts my gloomy moods.  For me sunlight is like a promise from God.

Once during a worrisome time I was setting by the window praying.  As I finished my prayer a shaft of sunlight broke through caressing my cheek.  It was as if I’d been touched by God and he was saying all is well.  Many times God has used sunlight to remind me that he is near.  It’s one of the ways we communicate with each other.  I like to think of it as a love letter from God.

As wonderful as those experiences are, sadly there are many times spiritually when I stay in the dark.  I know I need the light, but I stay in the shadows ignoring the truth.  It may be fear of what God is asking me to do, or rebellion over a sin that needs to be confessed.  Spiritual darkness creates a rift between me and God.  It zaps my strength and hurts my witness. I find myself much like Adam and Eve trying to hide from God.  The more I hide the more I become afraid of the light and what it will reveal.  Living in the dark is a miserable existence.  The only way out is confession and repentance.

Thankfully, I have a loving savior who doesn’t give up on me.  He tenderly woos me back to the light.  He reminds me that I belong to him and once again I stand at the foot of the cross where he shines his light of truth into my heart and lovingly restores me.  I stand in his embrace, cross light flooding my soul, and wonder that I was ever afraid of the light.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  Ephesians 5: 8-10

Standing in Grace,

Sadie