A Christmas Message from Asburys’ president
A colleague recently sent me an article by one of my favorite authors, Tish Harrison Warren. The title immediately caught my attention: “Want to Get into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness.”
In it, Warren writes: “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.”
A cursory appraisal of today’s landscape speaks to this “cosmic ache”—a massive, unmistakable, collective groan across our society: “Things are not the way they should be.” Regardless of one’s religious commitments, few will deny that we find ourselves blanketed in a kind of darkness.
In Scripture, darkness has two dominant connotations. First, it relates to ignorance, living unaware of the light. Second, it speaks to rebellion, rejection of the light.
So, what does this have to do with Christmas?
Recall the prophetic announcement of Christ’s coming in Isaiah 9: “For unto us a child is born.” Verse 2 reads: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”
When a Spirit-filled Simeon held the recently born Jesus, he described him as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32).
Jesus describes himself in similar language. In John 8:12, he says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Amidst all of the narratives that compete for our attention during this season—Advent reminds us that this is the Christmas story: Light has come to darkness. And light prevails. John 1:5 reads: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” This is why Advent highlights hope, expectation and anticipation.
The coming Messiah was described as “light.” Jesus describes himself as “light.” But there is another entity described as light—the people of God. In one of his most famous sermons, Jesus says:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Spiritual light is not simply the absence of darkness, it is God’s illumination in us and through us. By living into our God-reflecting humanity, we co-create with God and echo our Creator: “Let there be light.”
Jesus is light. In Him, we have light. May this light shine before the world to overcome darkness and to glorify the Father. This is our hope. This is our peace. This is our joy. This is our love. The light has come.
Blessings to you during this sacred season, and this Christmas may you be reminded of the light that overcomes the darkness.
Kevin J. Brown is the president of Asbury University.