A Time of Light and Darkness – 2 Chronicles 26
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
And so begins Charles Dickens epic, A Tale of Two Cities.…or does it describe the Christmas season?
We’ve roller-coastered through most of December, and Christmas itself is only a few days away. How’s your stress level? There are way too many important things to do, places to go, people to see, goodies to eat, families to appease. I’m starting a campaign to move Christmas to January. Then we can at least spread out the fall holidays a little and I’d have time to diet in between them. I might even have time to breathe. On top of it all, I’ve served myself a side of guilt because I know the flurry is not the point. It’s the best of times, and the worst of times.
Not a new problem. We’ve been trying to get our priorities straight for centuries. We do okay for while, then slip back into madness no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Today’s four Scripture readings sound like Dickens himself could have introduced them. 2 Chronicles 26 tells the tale of King Uzziah who began his reign with honor and dedication to God. It was the best of times in Judah. But as he gained power, verse 16 tells us, “He grew proud, to his destruction.” The rest of the chapter recounts his lack of humility before God, ultimately dying a pitiful death from leprosy. In fact, he was remembered by his people as this: “He was a leper.” What a legacy. To accomplish so much in your life, even for God, but remembered only for your failures at the end. It was the worst of times for his family. I’m making lots of mental notes.
And there’s more. Prophesy of a season of Darkness for all people is recorded in Revelation 13. A beast from the sea and a beast from the Earth are unleashed and nothing but despair and destruction follow. The beasts are powerful beyond belief and merciless in their efforts to dominate mankind. In fact, verse 7 says they were “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.” Certainly a winter of despair.
Despair. Have you ever felt that?
Such harsh readings for this Christmas. We’re often confused by what God allows on earth. Is He good? Can I trust Him? In the midst of our pain, we cry out for rescue. We even sing about it at Christmas:
O come, O come, Emmanuel!/ And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here/ Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/ shall come to thee, O Israel.
Two voices speak in this carol. The first begs for deliverance, but the second sings with assurance; a winter of despair, yet the spring of hope. Zechariah too prophesied the coming of the King. “On that day the Lord their God will save them as the flock of his people. For like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on His land.” (Zech 9:16) Then John 12 paints the glorious picture of King Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem amid the hosannas, come to rescue his people. A few weeks later, He makes His way to the cross and defeats the power of sin and death. Hope fulfilled.
Emmanuel came to earth just as was prophesied. Emmanuel sacrificed Himself for our sin debt, just as He promised. Emmanuel rose from the dead, “just as he said.” (Matt 28:6) Rejoice! God is with us. You can check that off your Christmas wish list now.
Dickens was right. We live in a time of Light and Darkness, wisdom and foolishness. Christmas helps us remember what has already been done for us and asks us to hope for what is yet to come – A season of Eternal Light. Lord, help us get it right this year.
image by permission – Kelli Campbell
Teri Vogeli still can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up. She and her husband started out teaching in California, but moved to Michigan to grow a family, where they built a house, homeschooled their seven kids and fell in love with organic gardening, canning, and country life. After years leading youth ministry, women’s ministry, mom’s ministry and children’s ministry, she and her husband, now a pastor, shepherd a little church in farm country. She has fun filling in any gaps. They recently bought a restored 1880 farmhouse where she enjoys her dog, chickens, horses, barn cats, and grandkids. A hobbit at heart, she often needs a little piece of quiet. Visit with her at TeriVogeli.wordpress.com.