The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)
I want to tell
you about my worst, and
best, Advent Season. I look back on the year 2000 as worst year of
my life. That year Advent came at the end of a five year struggle in
coming to realize that my employer for 21 years was in big trouble. I
was worn out and very depressed from trying to salvage my career. Our
financial security had deteriorated to almost nothing over the
past year. I was living in a very dark place where I could see no
light in my future. I thought that my life was over. I spent quite
a bit of time asking God if there was any purpose for my life
It was with this dark cloud surrounding me that I came to the Christmas Eve service at Bethel Church that year. This service wasn't especially different than in other years. It has always been a very good worship experience with wonderful music and singing among flickering candles. We come to celebrate the hope that Christ brings. I came without much hope in my heart, a few weak and worn prayers on my lips, not expecting much, trying to endure as well as I could the pain of what is supposed to be a hopeful season and get it over with.
Something happened in the middle of that service which changed me. That's all I know. Somehow the darkness dissipated, the people around me looked radiant, the music filled my heart and I experienced a feeling of joy and peace that surpassed anything I had known up until that point. This wasn't sentimentality. It seemed more real than all the anxiety and despair that I was experiencing in my life and that it transcended all my problems.
When the service was over, I was greeted by a friend who asked my about my job situation; if it was serious and if I would be alright. "Yes, it is serious" I said, "but I think I'm going to be alright." I marveled at how much I really believed what I had just said. The feeling of peace and joy gradually dissipated over the next few days. The darkness returned and I resumed my struggle through the transition into a new job and beyond; but not without a flicker of hope kindled by that experience to help me through the dark times. In contrast to 2000, Christmas 2006 has been one of the happiest I can remember. But the seed for it, I am sure, was planted six years ago.
Thank you, Oh Lord, for the darkness that makes your light shine so bright.