Ellie Hale, a senior at CCA, recently offered this Christmas speech in chapel.
It is odd to me that so many people are afraid of the dark. Not because being afraid of it is weird or uncommon, but because we are so constantly surrounded by it. It’s something that should be familiar to us. It should be comfortable, the darkness. But there is a reason the dark is so terrifying and dreadful. There is a reason that when it is so dark and black, you can’t even see your hand a centimeter from your face, you hold your breath, listen, and wait. You know in your head that you are in your bed and nothing has changed. The door is still closed. Your books are still safely stowed away on their shelf. You are safe, but you doubt anyway until you convince yourself enough to fall asleep. Even in partial darkness, we fear because the lack of light distorts items that are familiar to us, like the mailbox that suddenly looks like a man when you drive home at night. People are afraid of the dark because it hides and distorts things that should be seen. Because in the darkness, you cannot see the truth.
In Mark Chapter 5 starting in verse one, Jesus has just finished teaching on a mountainside in front of a multitude of people. He calmed a storm with His words while sailing across the sea with His disciples.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
This is one of the passages in the Bible where we see so clearly the darkness of our world. This man was surrounded by death and possessed by evil. He was literally living in a graveyard. He was alone, dead in his sins, tormented, demon-possessed, and covered in darkness and scars. He had nothing but suffering. So often we assume this story is to show us how to care for and reach the afflicted. We sometimes miss that we are the man in this story. We live in a culture of brokenness just as the man lived in a culture of death.
Broken families, broken hearts, broken people.
To us, each and every tombstone in the graveyard we call home is a unique and personal story of suffering and darkness that is painfully real to us. Not one of us in this room walks untouched by the darkness of our broken and sinful world. The graveyard goes on and on and on. We hear and see the stories of those suffering around us, all the while we are living out our own suffering. Sometimes it seems as if there is no end. And just like the man in the story, we are powerless. We are sinful. Another hard truth is that we deserve death. “For the wages of sin is death.” All of us are in fact sinful and incapable of removing the darkness because we deserve it.
But let’s continue reading in Mark Chapter 5:
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
And there it is, our hope, the light in the darkness, Jesus. Jesus crossed the sea and calmed the storm and came to save this one man because He loved him despite him. The legions of demons are so powerless in His presence that Jesus did not even speak before they fell down before Him. The darkness didn’t even stand a chance against the light of the world. Dark has no power over light because the truth is, darkness is nothing when there is light. It is the absence of light, and we cannot fear the darkness because we have the light. God freely gave us life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17
And really, that’s what Christmas is. It is the other half of Romans 6:23, “ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In the darkest hour of the night, when the people of Israel had been long waiting for the Messiah, trying to fight the darkness on their own, when they felt as if there was no more hope, Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, worthy of all power and majesty and praise, silently slipped into our world. It seems simple and unexpected that God, the almighty and all powerful, would humbly become a baby, born in a manger in the dark of the night to become the light in our dark, dark world and to die an excruciating and substitutionary death for our sake so that we didn’t have to. It seems odd to me as well that the arrival of our hope and our king should only be announced by the silence of a star, but it is almost poetic because even turning on the lights makes no sound. Yet it destroys all the darkness in an instant. And now, we don’t have to be slaves to the darkness anymore, because God who loved us so much despite our brokenness, sent the light into the darkness to save us because He loves us.
That’s why we celebrate Christmas.