Part Nine: Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light
This line is from O Little Town of Bethlehem. My favorite version of the song is the one done to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, but regardless of the melody it's a great song lyric-wise. Something that I think is really cool is how Jesus is referred to as the "Everlasting Light" shining in the dark streets of Bethlehem. It reminds me of the Chris Tomlin song How Great is Our God with the lyrics:
He wraps Himself in light and darkness tries to hide and trembles at His voice...This idea of God as light for the world conjures up two images from my memory. First was a trip to Ohio Caverns sometime in middle school. I don't know how many of you have ever done cave tours but on this particular one, they took our group who-knows-how-far-down and for thirty seconds - to prove a point - they turned out the lights. It's the only time in a childhood marked with hide and seek games and playing outdoors at night that I ever remember being in complete darkness, literally unable to see my hand in front of my face. Even in those short seconds, panic crept in but was assuaged immediately when the switch flipped and light flooded back over the stone walkways. I always think back to that moment of light equaling hope when I consider the instantaneous moment that God's light entered a dark and weary world on the first Christmas.
The second memory this lyric reminds me of is celebrating Advent with my family. For those unfamiliar with the traditional Catholic celebration, Advent involves four candles - one for each week before Christmas - and every Sunday one or more candles are lit along with prayers and scripture readings and the number of candles lit signifies the number of the week. (Growing up with four kids in the house this was especially convenient, as we all got to light one, except there was some dissention over who got to light Week Three - the pink candle, One, Two and Four were purple). Anyways, I remember sitting around the table after dinner and reading Bible verses together and watching as each week another flame was added to the circle of candles. When I was little the candles were just mesmerizing because they were pretty but later I realized that this constantly increasing light signified our hearts and lives being prepared for Christ's birth.
On that first Christmas, as in my cave story, light was instantaneous. With the Star shining as a beacon in the sky, God tore into the darkness that enveloped the world. Nowadays perhaps, God's more subtle. Like with the Advent wreath of candles, He's reminding us more and more each week that His light is in the world and it's our choice to light more candles and create an ever increasing illumination. Not just at Christmas, but always - for every dark street, an Everlasting Light.