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 (66)

66 thoughts on "The True Light"

  1. Angie says:

    Pam, I just said a prayer for your grandaughter and the other girls she ran away with. May God keep them safe until they are found, and may His shining light eventually reach and breakthrough the darkness each are living in.

  2. Bailey Bowers says:

    Working with first graders in a Title One school all day every day…I see such brokenness and often come home weighed down by the burdens my students are carrying every day. What a hope we have that one day, our God will bring ultimate justice and peace to His children…and that, even now, He is our LIGHT in the darkness.

  3. Ashley Thomas says:

    It’s hard to see the light when the darkness is pressing all around. Sometimes we need the light of others to help us see. We can’t always do it on our own.

  4. Elizabeth Brockey says:

    I am tired and weary today. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. I am pressing forward, seeking the peace He can give. I feel the longing today and am excited that He will come again

  5. K D says:

    Every morning when I sit to read I light a candle as a reminder of the presence of the light of the world. Oh how grateful I am that He has overcome the darkness.

  6. Pam Williams says:

    Yes, these last 3 years have left me battle scarred, yet longing more and more for Jesus. Just had a wonderful two nights singing about God With Us. This morning woke up to my troubled granddaughter who is at Teen Challenge to get help, ran away with 4 other girls around midnight. They are in a different state. We have been through this before with two other siblings all of whom were adored out of foster care. They come with so much damage in their lives. Breaks my heart. But then I’m remembering the battles with her older sister. God mightily intervened and rescued her. She’s now a sweet God loving, new bride married to a Godly young man. She’s our miracle. Remembering those battles where God was vitorious, and praying to see His hand again. Needing to keep His Joy, my strength.

    1. AnneLyn P says:

      Praying for your granddaughter and the other girls – that they would be found and that they would seek God and know his love.

  7. Natasha R says:

    Life can be relentless, but it’s no match against my God!

  8. Stacey Wilson says:


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