This year I had the privilege of sharing a devotional at my church’s Christmas Eve cantata. The theme of the cantata was “Light and Life to All He Brings” and I shared the following reflection titled “Jesus With Us in the Darkness.”
Emmanuel means “God with us.” Jesus came, not only to reveal our darkness, but that He might be with us in the darkness. And it is in the darkest places that His light shines the brightest. As an old Puritan prayer says, even in daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells, and “the deeper the wells, the brighter thy stars shine.”
So the hope of Christmas is found not in the absence of sin and suffering, but in the very midst of our own darkness and the darkness of the world around us.
God with us. We find comfort in that reality that indeed God IS with us in our times of difficulty and sorrow and suffering. But sometimes we forget that God was with us in an even deeper darkness first. We were enemies of God, opposed to Him, our hearts and our minds set on being little gods ourselves—masters of our own destinies. And in that condition, the condition into which every one of us was born, we were destined for God’s wrath, deserving only to be separated from Him for all eternity. That is what it means to be lost, to be completely unable to make ourselves right with God, incapable of even seeking Him, much less pleasing Him. As the worship song says, we were “lost in darkest night,” self-deceived in thinking we “knew the way,” captivated by “the sin that promised joy and life” but only led us to the grave. Ephesians 2:12 tells us that we were “without hope and without God in the world.” There is nothing darker than that—that is complete darkness.
But it is into that complete darkness that Jesus came to be Emmanuel, God with us. He did not wait for us to mend our ways and clean up our lives and get rid of our sin, and we were helpless to do that even if we had wanted to. No, He did not wait for the light to dawn in this dark world or in the deep darkness of our hearts. He IS the light, and He entered into our darkness in order to bring us out of the darkness and into His light.
God with us in the darkness of our sorrow, and God with us in the darkness of our pain, and God with us in the darkness of our suffering would have no meaning apart from God with us in the deepest darkness of our sinful determination to live life autonomous from Him. But Jesus stepped into that darkness, and took that darkness upon Himself, suffering the wrath of God that we deserved, even to the point of death, death on a cross. Because He initiated, He came to us to deal with that deepest darkness of our sin, we who trust in His salvation now walk in great hope. Because no matter how dark the circumstances are around us, no matter how dark the valley of suffering that we face, we have in Jesus “God with us” and He has vanquished the greatest darkness we could ever face—the darkness of our sinful hearts—therefore we need not fear even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
He is with us—Emmanuel. That is great hope, even in the darkness.