There is something about the night sky that has always amazed me. On a dark night, it can almost be pitch black outside. It can be so absolutely dark that it would make no difference if your eyes were opened or shut. Because in the absence of light, there can be no sight. Have you ever experienced a night like this? Imagine being lost in a dark forest where there was no light to be found. Your surroundings are unfamiliar and you are far from home. Its just you and the darkness that surrounds.
There is a coldness that grows in total darkness. There is fear. Fear of the darkness, with no hope of day break in sight. Just black. Pitch black. And when there is no hope, the human spirit begins to deteriorate. Questions arise from the depths of our soul. “From where did such darkness come from?” “Why is their no light?” And when there is no light, we come to the only conclusion we can reach from the blackness…”All hope must be lost.”
But as broad and expansive as darkness can be, it takes but a pin prick of light to illuminate the back drop and disperse the darkness. Just one small star in the sky can provide enough light to allow you to see what lies ahead. And where once fear and depression resided, there comes something new that was birthed out of the light. Hope. Your circumstances have not changed. You are still deep in an unfamiliar forest. You are still far from home. And there is still darkness. But there is good news. The light has made clear a familiar path that will lead you home. And in the very midst of your dark night, there is good news. There is hope.
Less than a week ago, our nation endured one of the most heinous killing sprees in Newtown Connecticut, when a deranged man murdered students and teachers alike. And as despicable and tragic as this is, mass murders are not abnormal in the world we live in. Columbine, Colorado. Virginia Tech. Even a seemingly safe place such as a movie theater…all these places will forever remind us of how depraved some humans can be, and all humans have the capacity to be. Upon hearing of events such as these, our lives become filled with a melting pot of emotions and feelings.
All describe the state of mind an absence of light can bring. And out of the many questions that tragedy can bring, most of the questions are conveniently pointed at God. For where there is an absence of light, the existence of light will be questioned. If there is a light, where was it during the dark time? Sometimes there is so much darkness, we wonder if the light was ever there to begin with. Where was God in these senseless killings? And if he is loving, why would he allow this to happen?
Its alright, even expected to ask these questions in our dark times. The night sky under the sun is never eternal. Eventually, the light will send the darkness back to where it came. Because even the smallest ray of light brings sight. But sometimes we close our eyes when we’ve been in darkness for too long. And when the light finally comes, even though the darkness has vanished, we remain lost in hopelessness. Because we’ve forgotten to open our eyes. The path has been made clear. But now it is we who have created the darkness in a world full of light. We’ve become so focused on our darkness that we refuse to see the light. And so we remain captive in a prison to which we hold the key.
Sometimes darkness exists so that we can appreciate the light.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place (to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-24.
This is the Christmas story. Songs have been written about it, and parents tuck their children into bed, telling the story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Happy little manger scenes are set up all over towns across America. And in our own ways of sweetening up the gospel, we think of Christ’s birth a being peaceful and full of hope. And if ever hope was evident, it was here. You see, good news had arrived in the darkest of night. The four hundred years of God’s silence towards man had come to an end. And the salvation of the world was born. Its easy for us as outsiders looking back on the story to gravitate immediately towards the light. But make no mistake, the night was far from over.
Take for example Mary. Contrary to what the Catholic church would say, Mary was nothing special. Just an ordinary peasant girl. She was no doubt a Godly young woman. And by young, most scholars have said she could have been as young as twelve. We know that she loved the Lord because in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, we learn that the angel told Mary that she need not fear, for she had found favor with God. All throughout scripture, those who found favor with God were marked with a great love and obedience towards him. However, although she may have been Holy, she was not sinless. The book of Luke also tells us Jesus said that no man is good, except God alone. There was not a foot note that said, “No man is sinless…except Jesus and his mom.”
Mary was just an ordinary girl, with the life of every other young girl. She probably went to the synagogue weekly to pray. She was diligent with her chores. She was known through out the town as a dependable young gal who had great upbringing. All this being said, we can probably safely assume that Mary had really good parents to raise a young woman who had found favor in the Lords sight. And now she was in a joyous period of her life. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and they were to be married.
Joseph was just an ordinary, hardworking, carpenter. Not alot is said in scripture about Joseph, but there is no doubt that he was a righteous man. For starters, no parents would betroth their daughter to a man who portrayed the qualities of a bum. The point of the betrothal period was for the family of Mary to get to know Joseph very well. To be sure that he was a man of integrity, and hard working. And for Mary to be a girl who loved the Lord, it is a safe bet that a Godly man was at the top of the checklist of Mary’s parents. We also get a glimpse into seeing Joseph as a very righteous man in the gospel of Luke when Jesus was just a boy.
“Now his (Jesus) parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” Luke 2:41.
Joseph never missed the Feast of Passover. In fact, Joseph would take the whole family. Although a sinful man like the rest of us, the one thing that set Joseph and Mary apart was that they loved the Lord, and were faithful to try and live in obedience. One of the misconceptions in Christianity today is that if you seek Jesus, all troubles will go away. Therefore, because of this false doctrine, when people who dont know the true gospel profess Christ, and their lives enter into dark periods, they fall away from the faith. This only proves that they never knew Christ to begin with. John said this of these kind of believers that expected God to give them a trouble free life only to fall away from the faith when times got tough…..
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” John 2:19.
But this was not the example of Joseph and Mary. Contrary to popular belief, the birth of Jesus was surrounded by darkness. Imagine being a teenage girl who was about to be married having to explain that you were pregnant with child! Her parents must have been mortified. Im sure in their minds, it wasnt enough that she had seemingly sinned, but she was apparently brash enough to blame it on God! And then there was Joseph! The Bible again gives us some insight on what an upstanding man Joseph was.
Upon being told the news of his future brides unexpected pregnancy, he had options. Under the law, in the case of adultery, Joseph could have legally had Mary put to death. It was his legal right if he so chose. But here is what Joseph did when he heard the news.
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19.
Notice the passage says Joseph was a “just” man. Just means fair. Its a Godly quality for a man to seek fairness and not vengeance even in the bleakest and most hurtful of circumstances. And Joseph didn’t say, “Yeah Ill just divorce her, but Im going to trash her name all over town.” He had every right. The scripture says he resolved to divorce her “quietly.” Joseph was hurt and felt ultimate betrayal. But Joseph was a good man. And as you continue on in Matthew, Joseph was visited by the angel and told to take Mary as his wife, and that it was indeed God that placed the child in Mary’s womb. Joseph asked no questions and did as the angel told him.
Do you see the darkness that is only silhouetted by the coming Savior? Mary’s reputation was ruined amongst the towns people. And in a small town, it doesnt take long to get around. The same people that once looked at Mary as a sweet, innocent flower, now saw her as a lying floozy. And hardworking, respectable Joseph was no doubt pitied as an ignorant fool for believing such a tale as Mary had told that although she was pregnant with child, she’d never been with a man.
This was not the life Joseph had dreamed of when he was a little boy. This was not the dream wedding that Mary had fancied all the days of her youth. Life had taken a majorly, unexpected turn. And suddenly before they entered into what should have been the happiest time of their lives, Joseph and Mary were thrust into darkness. But they never lost their sight, even when the road seemed darkest in their lives. Because they had received the good news from the angel. The savior was to be born. And although currently their circumstances had not changed, hope was on the horizon.
But how does this play into the tragedy that happened one week ago? Where in scripture do we go to find direction in times such as these? How can it be explained God allowing such a crime to be committed, especially resulting in the death of little, innocent children?
Look at what happened after Jesus was born…..
” Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” Matthew 2:13-16.
The very same tragedy that took place in Connecticut last week occured in the town of Bethlehelm over two thousand years ago. The slaughter of innocent children at the hands of a mad man. King Herod was seeking out the baby who was told to be the Messiah. Herod was the only king at the time on earth, and he intended to keep it that way. So he sent soldiers to Bethlehem, where Christ was born, with orders to kill all the male children under the age of two. Innocent children were massacred senselessly. And parents must have been asking many of the same questions that we have been asking in light of the school shootings this week.
Let me point out something…God did not place the evil in Herod’s heart. Just as God didnt cause the pain that took place in Connecticut this week. Jesus came to bring salvation from the consequences of sin. God did not cause that horrible injustice. There is darkness in the absence of light. And when man lives without good news for long enough, he turns to himself and his sinful nature takes over when there appears to be no hope. There are Christians who refuse to share the good news. And there are evil men who refuse to recieve it. Even in the blackest of night, there is good news. The light of the world has come through Jesus, and our hope is no longer squashed by the sin of this world.
As it pertains to our situation today, we are so confused by the darkness we choose to live in, and its all but absurd. For example, if a child is killed outside the womb, its called an atrocity. But if a child is killed inside the womb, its called a choice. We cry out in anger that such heinous murders could take place and rightly so. But it is the norm for us to indulge in violent and Godless movies, video games, and entertainment that most likely influenced the depraved man who killed these precious children and brave teachers. We take God out of schools, but curse him when he isnt there. We neglect to spend time in prayer, yet we blame him when our lives fall apart. We avoid the light in search of sin, and are terrified when we find ourselves in darkness from the consequences of it. We question God in regards to sin in the world that we’ve made acceptable by calling it “harmless entertainment.”We want to point the finger but never take the blame.
Friends, I have seen more people flooding Facebook and the internet with political statements and anger towards God since these awful killings took place than normal. And the depravity of our world today is not a political issue, its a gospel issue. The gospel in its most basic definition means, good news. We live in an evil world with darkness all around. But as Christians, we need not navigate through life with our eyes shut. Jesus Christ has been born, and he has absorbed the wrath of God that was meant for us on the cross. The remedy for less violence in America is not changed behavior, its changed lives by spreading the good news of Jesus to a world of people lost in the hopelessness and darkness of sin.
We cannot blame God for a lack of light in this world. He came, he died, he rose, and conquered death. God did his part. And he left us with one last command in Matthew 28:19. To go and tell this good news to every one, so that they may be saved from a life void of hope. Because again, when man gets hopeless, he gets desperate. And when man gets desperate, his most evil side comes out. I wonder how things may have been different if someone would have shared the gospel with the killer, Adam Lanza. I wonder if someone had told him that no matter how black his life seemed, that it was alright to open his eyes, because there was light in the good news of Christ. People dont need more medications and mental wards. People need more good news. Maybe the reason there is so much darkness in the world, is because there are so many Christians unwilling to share the light.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” matthew 5:15-16.
You want to change the world for the better America? Start spreading the gospel. Who are you sharing with today?
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14.