Light on a Dark Night (Luke 2:1-14)

Months have passed and Mary’s time to deliver is imminent. Her wedding must have been unusual—a pregnant bride claiming to be a virgin; she and Joseph have commenced married life in small town Nazareth amidst the whispers of neighbours and disappointed glances of in-laws. When the Roman prefect announced the Emperor’s edict to enforce a census, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Now she and Joseph are traveling to the urban centre to register themselves. The dictate makes no room for extenuating circumstances. An imminent birth simply means one more Jew the Romans can tax.

The newlyweds are feeling more than taxed. They are overwhelmed by the stresses of the past months, and now, weary travelers, they look for a place to rest their aching feet. It seems a cave behind a noisy inn is the best they can find. Joseph clears away barn-like debris and spreads sweet-smelling hay to make a cushioned bed-pallet for them. Mary’s labour-pains pierce the stillness of the night. She catches a look in Joseph’s fearful eyes and feels the despair of the moment. Where is God now? Has He abandoned them in their greatest need? Is this what it means to be a servant of God?

They cannot yet see that in that simple cave-stable, a golden thread is being stitched into the complex tapestry of God’s plans for the world. The embroidering needle pierces the canvas with every stitch (Mary and Joseph wince with each threading) but the beauty of the finished work will be nothing less than stunning.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me 
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Plans for this moment were laid long before the foundation of the world. Prophecies have spoken of it for centuries. The Ancient of Days becomes one of us, and it is happening this dark night.

I guess most of us can relate to moments like that. Life’s challenges and difficulties seem to descend upon us with suffocating weight at times. We are discouraged, frustrated and hurting, unable to find hope in our impossible plight. Good things seem to come to others, but we are stuck in a cave in the dark, feeling agonies worse than any labour pains.

I love how this story goes. Do you remember the shepherds who are also in the dark some miles away, watching over their sheep under the vast night sky? An eons-old promise God made to Abraham one other starry night is being fulfilled, and the shepherds will be the first to know. Flashes of light fill the sky as celestial messengers announce the birth of God’s Messiah to these simple farming folk.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Read that with exclamation marks throughout its staggering message. Read it again. Here’s the amazing news: Fear is conquered. Great joy replaces it like flashes of light on a dark night. We are rescued from our plight not merely by a plan but by a person—the very Son of God, born to us, not just to Mary and Joseph.

“The people walking in darkness
 have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of deep darkness 
a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Let’s enter into the Christmas spirit, and let His Spirit enter into us. That baby was Mary’s son, He is God’s Son, but Good news of great joy He is ours too. He is ready to be everything to anyone who will accept Him as Savior. Admit it. Let His light dawn in the very core of your being. This is the message of Christmas.


photo credit: <a href=””>Paul Kline</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;




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