I am the neighborhood loser. I took down my Christmas lights two days after Christmas. I was the first, or one of the first, on my street to remove them. My tree was sitting on the curb too.
These are the unmistakable signs that we have declared Christmas is over. As I put my lights away, twilight set in and the lights of the faith-filled believers on my street clicked on—an affirming sign that I need some more time in Scripture and prayer apparently.
How dare I call a premature end to this season of joy and new beginnings.
Did I jump the gun on the latest covid depression cycle?
From glory to darkness
As this necessary ritual and responsibility played out on December 27 (“I’ll get fined by the HOA,” I told myself, “if these lights aren’t down by January 31”), I had a couple of thoughts.
The first was, “As the lights of Christmas come down, we are a people plunged back into the great darkness that Christmas pierces.” I know biblically that is not the case but still it felt that way. After two really difficult years, Christmas shines with hope, promise, and possibility.
The second thought was something like this: “Is this a little taste of what it was like for Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus said, ‘Let’s go back down the mountain?’”
You remember how Jesus blazed like the sun before these startled apostles (that is, missionaries, church planters, evangelists, and pastors) in training. Jesus gave them a special, preemptive, and private revelation of his full identity as the Son of God and Son of Man. I’ve often wondered what the other nine apostles felt when Jesus randomly chose these three for special experiences that they were excluded from. Surely the joy-killing temptation of comparison came close to them.
Not surprisingly, Peter wanted to stay on that mountain of supernatural insight. Wouldn’t we? But as quick as it came, the divine brilliance of Jesus evaporated and the visit with Moses and Elijah ended. Peter wanted to build a quick church building and wait for them to return. We’ve all been there too after some special worship encounter with Christ through his Spirit.
And Jesus took them back down the mountain, away from the heavenly preview and back into the darkness of broken humanity, right into the midst of ministry failure. “I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him” (Matthew 17:16 NIV).
Do you think the nine really felt like losers then? Do you?
Why can’t we stay on the mountain?
As 2022 launches with a new covid surge and your own personal and congregational challenges, you may be wishing you were back on the mountain of light with Jesus.
You are not alone in that wish.
But Jesus is just as present in the darkness of our difficulties as he was and will be in our heavenly eternity.
I had some great time the last two weeks of holidays with family and friends. My preschool-age grandkids made Christmas magical, as only small children can do.
Then yesterday, a great ministry friend died. He stepped into glory, but I miss him. He made people laugh. A force of nature, his friendship and affirmation made me a stronger person, a healthier disciple, and a better pastor.
So here I am, back in the valley of darkness longing for the CHRIST-mas light of heaven.
And Jesus is here too. He’s there with you also.
My prayer for you, your family, and your church is to “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4–5 NIV).
The people who walked in darkness really have seen The Great Light!