Out Our Way: Believe and keep looking - Matthew 11:2-10
Last updated 12/19/2020 at 8:48am
Out our way, quite often herding the cattle is made easier by their tendency after breeding to stick together. Even the bulls, who will attack each other viciously when the cows are "in season," let bygones be bygones and lie around together in what Charlie and I used to call "the good old boys club." But you may recall there was that time when the smallest Charolais bull, "Junior," was missing. So, before we could move the herd to a new pasture, we had to go hunt for Junior.
There was no sign of him nearby - neither with the bulls nor with the cows - but we knew he was out there. We just believed and kept looking. Even though we "knew" he was out there, after so many hours of fruitless search with no sign, we were losing hope. So you can imagine our relief and joy when we crossed over one more ridge and down below, surrounded by his own little harem of heifers, we found him just basking in the sun.
Now I bring this up as a parable of our own searching in the dark days in life. It is no accident that we celebrate Christmas in the darkest days of winter, for while the shortest days of the year are in December, it is also the time of the Winter solstice - when the whole cycle of darkness begins to reverse. Slowly, the darkness begins to retreat and the light begins to be restored. That in itself is a parable - for the Scripture speaks of the dawning of the Light that is Christ. Compare the creation story - Genesis 1:1-3 - with how John begins to explain the meaning of Christmas - John 1:1-4 - by using the Genesis account as his model. "God said, 'Let there be Light' - and it was so." Not only the physical light of creation, but the Light of Christ announcing the Kingdom of God had dawned.
Christmas is the dawning of the new Day and also the "spiritual solstice" in which the Light grows stronger and the darkness begins to recede. Look at world history and see how evil that was once accepted and even applauded in the past is now clearly shown to be evil. Indeed "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Isaiah 9:2).
Ah - but that doesn't mean the darkness is gone. No, on the contrary, the powers of darkness still exist and enlist the gullible into believing it is eternal and omnipotent. Thus darkness and the shadows still frighten and abuse us. Those who cannot or will not see the Light, for it exposes them, seek to tell us there is no light - and what the Scriptures proclaim is just a fairy tale. And sometimes we start to believe them. Even church goers who are dealing with one trial after another - perhaps having been told by some "feel good" preachers that only those who are unfaithful have to deal with darkness, "real" Christians never face shadows in their lives.
Well, that is the darkness at work, even in the church, for the darkness is real, and I know of few who have not had to deal with it. Read the Bible and the struggles of the most faithful servants of God - and you will see the darkness trying to overwhelm them. Read the Gospels and the Epistles and see how Christ Himself and His most faithful followers had to deal with the reality of darkness. Like the man whose faith was weak, we cry out, "Lord, I believe - Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)
Read again the passage that goes with today's message. Note that even John the Baptist, the one whose birth was foretold by Gabriel and who was given the "spirit of Elijah" as prophesied - Malachi 4:5, Luke 1:17 - even he began to doubt. Yet read Jesus' response. (Matthew 11: 4 - 6): "Look and see." So if you are walking in darkness, you are on the same trail as the men and women of faith who preceded you. But they believed the Light was coming and kept looking - and none were disappointed.
Back to ole Junior ... Charlie and I believed he was out there somewhere, but all our searching and failed to find him. I guarantee, going up and down innumerable steep ridges, through thickets of thorns and deep gullies fruitlessly looking for some sign and finding none, was often discouraging. But we kept looking anyway ... and, as you know, eventually found him. He was always there. Right now, as Christmas draws nigh, some of us are discouraged. We, too, ride in the dark shadows and are pierced by thorns; we too seem to be surrounded by steep ridges that are so hard to climb; and reaching the top, find nothing, and descend into the dark shadowlands again. But, as with Junior, we keep looking, for we know the Light is there, even if we are still in the shadows.
Once again, I do not say, "Just believe because I say so." I simply say, "Seek and you will find" (Matthew 7:7). And a great place to start for non-believers is in your secular world history. Leave the Gospels for a moment ... and read of the past. See how the "Winter Solstice" really did begin with Christmas, for you will see the darkness, as great as it is today, is less than it was even a few years ago. Start to look and see the signs of the Light growing, for the shadows are in retreat. Look at things that are today considered evil but were acceptable even a few years ago. Why? Because the Light is growing and the evil darkness seeks to hide is being exposed and rejected for the evil it is. Even non-believers see the changes and while they may refuse to acknowledge the Source of the Light that is slowly pushing back the Shadows, they cannot honestly deny that the darkness IS being pushed back. Evil still exists - but it is being exposed as the Light grows and people are starting to know it for what it really is.
Ole Junior was out there - Charlie and I just had to believe it and keep looking. The Light has come and the darkness has not overcome it. To the contrary, it is the darkness that is being overcome. The "Solstice" has arrived, the Light has dawned and grows stronger. The shadows and those who prefer the darkness are defying the Light, but are being pushed back anyway.
So if you are still looking, take heart. You ride the same trail as John the Baptist, Peter,t he other disciples, Paul, and countless others from that time to today. Believe and keep looking.
Be blessed and be a blessing!