The darkest day of the year is coming soon. December 22nd here in East Tennessee is supposed to have just 9 hours and 43 minutes of daylight. That means we can expect 14 hours and 17 minutes of darkness.
Darkness. These winter weeks are dark, and sometimes bring with them sadness, depression, loss and fear. I don’t mean to sound bleak, but sometimes winter is bleak. And dark.
Darkness is the backdrop to so much of the Christmas story. Have you ever noticed that?
- Isaiah’s prophecy about Christ’s birth was for “people who walked in the darkness and dwelt in deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2).
- “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)
- Zechariah rejoiced in Luke 1 that the Messiah would “visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness…” (1:78-79)
And that leads us to our advent reading today. The shepherds were out in the fields… at night. Think of the darkness of a pasture on the outskirts of a small village. The sheep were huddled together, the tired shepherds remaining vigilant against constant threats against the sheep emerging from the darkness.
Suddenly, an unearthly light fills the whole sky – an angel from heaven is there with a message for these shepherds! Scarcely do the men have time to recover from the shift from night to day but they hear the most wonderful news:
 “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10–12, ESV)
Good news of great joy! That’s wonderful news for these shepherds, especially as they hear it is for all the people. It’s not just for the kings of the world or the religious leaders or the rich. It’s all the people, even these tired and perhaps smelly and for sure ceremonially unclean shepherds. The Messiah, Christ the Lord, has come, and He is the Savior for all the people.
Here’s what I think is most intriguing in this scene: the sign the shepherds must look for is not a star or even an angel but a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in an animal’s feeding trough. The splendor of this moment, this bright moment of heaven’s light piercing the dark night, does not compare with the glory of Jesus. He is the one the light points to. In fact, He is the Light that came into the world!
Oh, let those angels singing fill up your senses today. Their song is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” God stepped down into our darkness. Sing your gloria back to Him today. Whatever darkness you feel pressing in on you, He is the Light that awakens you to good news of great joy. The darkness cannot overcome the Light!