Day 16

The True Light

from the Advent 2019: A Thrill of Hope reading plan

Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 60:1-5, John 1:9-13, John 8:12, Revelation 22:1-5

BY Melanie Rainer

When we were first married, my husband and I started saying something to each other: “When this season is over, life will calm down.”

We’ve been married a decade now, and these days we start to say it and then laugh. Life is relentless. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and there are days when darkness presses in all around us until we find it hard to breathe. This season has been particularly heavy, sharing the burden of brokenness that has landed at the feet of some of our dearest people.

We’re really, really tired. We are, to borrow from Psalm 126, “those who sow in tears” (v.5). Each day when I drive the same Tennessee backroads to work, when the last vestiges of fog linger hazily over the trees like steam over a cup of coffee, I sing the same hymn based on Psalm 126:

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

When I read Isaiah 9 again, one of the most familiar Christmas passages, I realized it felt different this year. It felt more like reading Psalm 126, like a psalm of ascent. It reminded me of the tired hope of a people who saw the Lord conquer once, in Midian, and knew He could do it again. Not only did they know He could do it again, but they believed He would. As I read, my mind didn’t linger on verses 6 and 7, which describe Jesus’s perfectly just and righteous character. This time, I kept tracing over and over the words in verses 3 and 4:

You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you…
For you have shattered their oppressive yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as you did on the day of Midian.

I was struck by the military symbolism in Isaiah 9, words like “shattered” and “trampling boot of battle,” the “bloodied garments of war,” and God’s name in the passage, “the LORD of Armies.” In using a very specific illustration of how the Lord conquered the Midianites by the hand of Gideon, Isaiah was reminding the people that God could and would bring light into the darkness—even when the darkness felt as undefeatable as a much larger Midianite army.

I kept returning to words that hearkened a calling back, a restoration: “a light has dawned” and “as they rejoice when dividing spoils.” Then I flipped to Isaiah 60, and read once again of God rescuing His people from oppression, resulting in the restoration of many:

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to your shining brightness…
they all gather and come to you;
your sons will come from far away. (vv. 3–4).

As I circle each one of those phrases, drawn to them again and again, I’m reminded that Advent is a time of joy, but also of deep, heartfelt longing for restoration and for victory against oppressive darkness. Sometimes, Christmas feels like pure delight: Our good and righteous and just King has come! Hallelujah! Christ is truly with us. And while that is still very true, another reality is that this year, I feel like we are traveling uphill, up a long ascent, toward the promise. The light is dawning, but it still feels so far away. I need to read, and re-read even the familiar passages like Isaiah 6, to be reminded of a God who conquers the darkness and restores His people through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son. May He help us to keep sowing until, one day, we will go out of this present darkness with joy into a city whose only light is Him (Revelation 22:5).

Post Comments (67)

67 thoughts on "The True Light"

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m doing this Advent study in 2020 because the 2020 study was sold out. It’s funny how so many of the blog posts could have been written for the current state of our world. Especially this post. It reminds me that there is always something in this world that oppresses or gives us a feeling of darkness… it’s sin. It’s satan. There will always be darkness, there will also always be LIGHT! The truth of these passages will always be applicable and consistent. It is true this year, it was true last year, and it was true hundreds of years ago as Isaiah reminded Israel of God’s hand in the defeat of the Midianites. He is always faithful! The circumstances might change but God is consistently our LIGHT in the darkness of any circumstance.

  2. Hannah Messerly says:

    This was so encouraging.
    Biblical hope is hope in a person — hope in the light of Jesus. The Bible project has a great video that expounds on this hope that Melanie talks about — it really encouraged me as a close friend of mine is facing relentless darkness in her circumstances this season!

  3. Erica VaughnJackson says:

    I needed this !!!!!

  4. Tracie Nall says:

    John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness yet the darkness does not overcome it.” I needed this devotional today! The timely message and personal reminder that while I may be surrounded by darkness, unable to navigate and fumbling/stumbling as I journey that I am NOT overcome! This darkness doesn’t win, it won’t remain and God will sustain me! I will see clearly again if I keep my eyes focused on the Light!

  5. Jayme says:

    Praying for you, sister!

  6. Jenn in GA says:

    For anyone interested, here’s the link to the song Melanie references:

  7. Karissa Stanio says:

    “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”!!! I want to wake with that verse in my heart EVERY DAY! ❤️ ☀️

  8. Ashley S. says:

    Heart hurting, waiting for sleep to come, oh how I relate to this weariness. Thank you for this reminder that dawn is coming.

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