Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we approach another Christmas, we acknowledge that this year has not only been incredibly challenging for most, but it’s been devastating for the many families who have experienced the crippling effects of the current pandemic. Someone recently referred to 2020 as ‘the darkest year in their memory!’
Throughout Israel’s history, she knew long years of darkness. A history of calling that began with Abraham, a history of 400 years exile in Egypt, of wanderings in the wilderness, of the conquest and occupation of the land of Canaan, of captivity in Babylon, then trying to rebuild, only to be oppressed as the Greeks invaded, and then the Romans came and further oppressed them. However, what sustained those who looked to God through all those long, long years of darkness, was the hope that the sunrise would break!
The prophet Malachi promised that ‘the sun of righteousness would rise with healing in its wings.’ (Mal 4:2) What he was saying was exactly what was later said in Luke 1:78, “sunrise will come.” The darkness is not permanent, but it’s usually true that the darkness is the deepest, just before the dawn. For 400 years after Malachi had said; “The sun of righteousness will rise,” God never spoke. There was no prophet in the land. There was no revelation from God. Therefore, it was the darkest time of all.
For 400 years heaven was silent. Prayers went up, but it seemed as though they hit brass and bounced back. And Israel sunk deeper and deeper into depression, oppressed by the Greeks whose ruler Antiochus Epiphanes actually had the unmitigated gall to step into the sacred Holy of Holies, the holy place of the temple, and desecrate those places, even sacrificing a pig on the altar; a time when the Gentile Greeks came in and brought their pagan gods and their pagan theology and mingled it in that sacred land with the people of Israel. They were followed by the Romans, also with all their idolatries. This made the depression all the greater. And as much as the Jewish people cried out to God, God didn’t speak and no prophet appeared. Where was the sun of righteousness? No one dreamt it would be 400 years from the prophecy to its fulfilment. Where was the day of which Malachi also said, “You will trample down the wicked and they’ll be like ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things, says the Lord Almighty.” Where was the day when righteousness triumphed over evil? The prophet said it will come. The light will break. The dawn will come. The sun will rise. He was referring, of course, to the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise God, the Lord Jesus Christ did come! ‘The true light that gives light to every man, came into the world!’ (John 1:9). Jesus said: “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) As we celebrate Christmas, let us never lose sight of what it’s all about. The Son of God entered time, became a man and bore our sins in His body on the tree. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel! Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King!”