In the land of deep darkness

2 The people walking in darkness 
   have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of deep darkness 
   a light has dawned. 
3 You have enlarged the nation 
   and increased their joy; 
they rejoice before you 
   as people rejoice at the harvest, 
as warriors rejoice 
   when dividing the plunder. 
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, 
   you have shattered 
the yoke that burdens them, 
   the bar across their shoulders, 
   the rod of their oppressor. 
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle 
   and every garment rolled in blood 
will be destined for burning, 
   will be fuel for the fire. 
6 For to us a child is born, 
   to us a son is given, 
   and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
   Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, 
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace 
   there will be no end. 
He will reign on David’s throne 
   and over his kingdom, 
establishing and upholding it 
   with justice and righteousness 
   from that time on and forever. 
The zeal of the LORD Almighty 
   will accomplish this.

It seems quite apt writing a reflection on this passage in the depths of winter, near our shortest - or darkest day.  This day does indeed seem dark for lots of other reasons too.  The church seems to be struggling with declining attendance, an increasingly challenging financial position, seemingly irreconcilable disagreements over gay clergy and women bishops, and it seems increasingly out of touch with today's society.  Our country is languishing in recession, massively in debt, haemorrhaging jobs; we're blighted by statistics that say we have among the highest child obesity, binge drinking, teenage pregnancy rates in the world; we are still fighting a war and losing troops in Afghanistan; and we can't even win in the sports arena!  All in all, there seems very little to shout about.  Our country has lost its way; its people walking in darkness, in the land of deep darkness.  There seems very little hope.

And yet.

Two thousand five hundred years ago the people of Israel were languishing under foreign oppression and exile.  The days seemed dark for them. There seemed like there was no reason to hope.  But God spoke.  God intervened.  God promised that the days of darkness would be over.  That one day light would dawn and there would be great rejoicing. That there would be justice and righteousness.  That a child would be born - not just any child, but the King of Kings who would reign forever.  He would be the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; the one on whom we could pin all our hopes.  The light did dawn, and Israel returned from exile and there was great rejoicing as the shattered walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  But that's not all - a child was born.  Two thousand years ago, God himself, God-with-skin-on, got involved in the mess and darkness of this world and brought light.  In the pages of Scripture we see light dawning as he brought hope and healing to thousands.  In the years since, he has brought hope and healing to millions, and he hasn't finished yet.

The days may seem dark, but there is reason to hope, as a child was born in Bethlehem who lives today and has promised to return and complete the work he began.  The night is darkest before the dawn, and the dawn will come.

Come, Lord Jesus.