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Out Our Way: The glow on the ridge

Isaiah 60:1-3

 

December 21, 2018



Out our way, the pre-dawn air can get chilly, even in mid summer. This is especially true up in the Bear Paws, where lots of folks camp out and stay tucked in their tents or campers until broad daylight. But sometimes there is a special magic to sitting at the campfire with hot coffee in the dark waiting for the sun to show up.

There is a magic, especially in some of the valleys as the stars begin to dim and faintly a tinge of pink begins to make itself known up on the ridges. Down below, it is still dark and cold, but up there the light has begun to make itself known and the promise of the day announces itself. It may be a while before the sunshine actually gets down to me, but I know it’s coming because I see the glow on the ridge.

Of course, if I never look up then all that I can see or know is the darkness that still surrounds my camp. I still feel the chill, and the blackness remains seemingly as steadfast and eternal as ever — perhaps more so, for is it not said, “the darkest hour is just before dawn?” But I do look up and see the glow on the ridge, and I know that the darkness is doomed, the sun is rising and the shadows will soon be gone.

As most folks know, the early church decided to set the date of Christmas around the old Roman holiday of the Winter Solstice — the longest night of the year. They did so in order to “blend in” with the hostile pagan Romans who persecuted and often martyred Christians, but also to make a theological point: Just as the longest night of the year was not eternal and every night thereafter would go shorter and shorter and every day longer and longer so, too, the power of darkness in the world was broken that first Christmas in Bethlehem with the birth of Christ. The Star of Bethlehem was the glow on the ridge for humanity.

Just as dawn is only the beginning of the day, so Christmas is only the beginning of the Gospel — Good News — God sent into the world. The glow on the ridge announces the rising of the sun and of the new day. Then comes the day itself and all that it promises. As most folks know, you can’t understand or appreciate Christmas unless you also understand and appreciate Easter — and then Pentecost — and then continuing spread of the “Son” light throughout the world. We celebrate Christmas once a year, but the point and purpose of Christmas is year-round. And, for more than 2,000 years, the Powers of Darkness have retreated before it as the Light has spread into every valley and cave. The shadows,and those who live in them, rage and curse the light, but they cannot stop it.

Our nation and our world are constantly struggling as the Light challenges the darkness and those whose power depends on remaining hidden in the shadows. Where ever “the end justifies the means” mentality is championed — be it in the government, the media or the universities — the shadows still hold sway. In the valleys where the darkness hides the face of greed, corruption, power and control, — it is still night. The “new brown shirts” of both the right and the left, who march boldly denouncing anyone who is not with them, need the shadows and the darkness to maintain their power and sense of control. Not surprisingly, many of those who prefer the darkness hate the Christmas message and seek to cover the Light with their darkness.

But the darkness has always hated the Light and this is nothing new. Herod sought to destroy it with the massacre in Bethlehem shortly after Christ was born. Later, the religious right and left of Judea tried to stamp it out, as did the pagan Romans and others. It still goes on today as those who love the darkness seek to blot out the light. An elementary school principal in Indiana wants even secular Christmas banned and confiscated candy canes because if you turn them upside down, they look like the letter “J” — which, of course, stands for Jesus. And in our beloved capital, a liberal Washington newspaper applauded the recent murder of a young missionary in New Guinea, and used it as an excuse to write a scathing anti-Christian editorial calling for all Christian missionaries to be banned. Oh, yes, the darkness still rails against the light and the shadows are deep in some of the darkest valleys to this day. But there is a glow on the ridge which continues to get brighter each day.

Those who love the shadows and worship the darkness fear it, for as the Light comes that which they wish to keep hidden and secret will be revealed. But not all who presently are in darkness condemn the Light as it grows. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). Those who prefer the darkness have tried to ignore it and even persuade others it is not there, but the glow on the ridge will not go away. The dawn is at hand and the lovers of the night cannot stop its coming. When you see the Advent candles in Church, or Christmas lights on the trees, houses and stores, remember what you are seeing are not just festive seasonal lights, but a reminder of the glow on the ridge.

Blessings, Brother John

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John Bruington and Doc can be contacted at [email protected] Their book “Out Our Way: Theology Under Saddle” is available on Amazon.

 

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