Candle Power vs. Christ Power
v. 78-79 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
O Dayspring, splendour of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Dear friends in Christ, have you ever been afraid of the dark? Many are—and with good reason. The dark is scary—it makes even the simplest of tasks incredibly difficult. What’s worse—is that in the darkness—you can’t see—so you don’t know what’s going on around you—the unknown can be terrifying thing—especially when you are alone. Which is why children often want someone with them at night—they find they can bear the darkness—as long as someone is beside them.
Well, even if you aren’t so much afraid of the unknown in the darkness anymore, we should all be even more afraid as now we KNOW what awaits us in the darkness. For we know there is one who lays waiting for us—prowling around like a lion—looking at us as his prey. And, just like children, the only thing that makes this dark journey of life bearable is when we have Someone with us—Someone who is Light Himself—and who shines brightly and beats the darkness back.
This antiphon—O Dayspring—O Oriens—O Dawn—O Morningstar—falls on December 21. What is significant about this day? It is the day of the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year—the day in which the light is swallowed up by the darkness. And therefore, it is appropriate that on this day the church recognizes this and cries out to He Who is the Light made manifest.
What is more—this day falls as we approach the high days of the holidays. Days which for many are not so joyous—but rather are marred by the keen sorrow felt over the loss of loved ones who have been taken by the darkness of death. Or, as we find ourselves still in the midst of a pandemic, facing the prospect of a Christmas without close family and friends gathered round—quite depressing and sad. Again, the church recognizes this and points her people to the only true source of Light and Hope—that babe born in Bethlehem—the son of Mary—the Son of God—who is the everlasting source of true Light in the universe.
Jesus alone can brighten our darkest days when we are plagued by our sin and grief and despair. Jesus alone can beat back the great enemies that seek to overwhelm us in the darkness of this life. He alone can and has destroyed their power. For He willingly descended into the greatest and darkest depths of human sin and death—suffering and dying for them on the cross—but then rising in glorious splendour with the dawn on the third day. He has risen in light and with life. And He gives this to you and me dear friends. He gives it to you as a gift—freely given to all who believe.
Satan thought he had won. Satan thought death had swallowed Jesus up and that the world was now his for the taking—a world to be sunk in darkness and fear and degradation. But Jesus has instead consumed the darkness of death with the Light of His Life. For darkness is the mere absence of light—therefore, wherever He who is Light reigns there can no longer be any darkness. That is why the New Jerusalem as described by John in Revelation has no sun or any lamp—because the Lamb on the throne is the only source of light that is needed—and He shines brighter than any sun or bright light.
The Luxor hotel in Las Vegas Nevada boasts of having the brightest light in the world—some 42 billion candle power—which can be seen from literally hundreds of miles away. As a people, we are fascinated with bright lights—we fill our homes with light, we decorate the outside of our homes with lights—why? In an effort to drive away and beat back the darkness.
But there is no beating back the darkness of death and sin and hell. On our own our very best efforts are impotent and tiny—not even a dimly flickering candle. But with Christ the darkness is forever banished. With Christ the night no longer frightens and terrifies. For He is our Light and our Salvation. For He who has come in the flesh has come to shine the Light of His love into our lives by giving Himself for us—by descending into the darkest depths of hell and death—so that you and I never have to.
Jesus is the everlasting Light to whom we pray when our lives become gloomy and scary. He is the One to whom we flee when the evil and sinister forces of this sin-filled world threaten to devour us. And He comes. He comes in His Word and in His Sacraments and He beats back our enemies—drives them away by the Light of His healing love and forgiveness. He clothes us in His own righteousness—bathing us in the curing power of His mercy in Holy Baptism.
What is more—He comes to us in His own body and blood—the body that entered into far more darkness that you or I will ever face—when He hung suffering on the cross—the day the sun itself hid its face from the world. He comes to us in bread and wine to shower us with His love and blessings—to reassure us of His powerful presence in our lives. For there is no darkness you will ever have to face alone—for Jesus has come through it all and now shines as an everlasting light—and He will walk you through the darkness as well—unto the shadow of death—into the Light of the Life to come. May His Light give you comfort and joy this holiday season. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.