(Post by: Michelle Hobbs)
Today is New Year’s Eve. A day of reflection and resolution. Some of you are probably excited at the prospect of a fresh start, a new year. Others are likely apprehensive about what 2022 will hold. The previous couple of years have been trying, to say the least. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, I want to challenge you to make your personal relationship with Jesus your priority this year.
It is natural for us to gravitate towards making resolutions about our weight, fitness, and physical health. We feel a sense of determination to get organized at home, school, or work in the coming year. But I wonder how many of us even include our spiritual life on our list of goals. Above all else, we must create space in our lives to read and contemplate God’s Word. We must make room to watch for and celebrate the truth, goodness, and beauty He has placed before us.
I heard a poem about the shepherds recently (see Song of the Shepherds poem below) that resonated so deeply with me in regard to where we Christians are in the world today. It starts with the shepherds sitting out in the darkness; darkness that they knew so well because they were out in it night after night. They knew the feel of it and had grown comfortable in it even though they knew there were threats lurking about. Most of the time they sat in silence, but every now and then one of them would pick up a flute and start playing; breaking through the oppressive silence. Pushing back the darkness.
Friends, we have been sitting in the darkness of a fallen world night after night and year after year. We have grown accustomed to it and rarely even give its threats much thought anymore. However, every now and then, one of us has the courage to stand up and provide some beauty, proof that Christ is still in the world, working through His followers. The Light of the World (John 18:12) that breaks through the silence and pushes back the darkness.
Will you be that one this year? It only takes a little courage.
Will you be that one who speaks the truth of the gospel, with love, into your workplace or school? Will you be that one who calls your church back to what the Lord said Christianity ought to look like? Will you be that one who gathers a group of your friends to study and discuss God’s Word? Every little action we take in His name breaks through the silence and pushes back the darkness of this fallen world.
You see, those of us who have walked in darkness and then have seen great light should be changed by that revelation! We should be unable to contain it; desiring nothing more than to make Him known wherever we go!
There is a line in the poem that says the light exorcised the darkness from the world and the world, coming back to itself, began again. Isn’t it just like God to take even our scant and insufficient offerings and use them to set the world aright again? If just one of us will sing His praise, it reminds the world around us of what once was; of what can and will be again.
Oh, but what if more than one of us chose to glorify Him every day in all that we said and did? What would happen to the world around us then?
The shepherds in the poem continued to watch over their flocks night by night and year by year, but something changed after they saw the great light; after God revealed Himself to them. They played and sang of Him every night, not just every now and then as they had before. They clutched their meager cloaks against the cold and played their song. The song that banished dark. The song stayed with them!
I once heard a quote that said something like… Faith is our loyalty to our response to God’s revelation to us.
Brothers and sisters, do you remember a time when the Lord revealed Himself to you? It may be the memory of your salvation and the freedom and joy you felt. Maybe He revealed that He was with you through a loss or time of grief. Has he provided for you in a time of trial? Our response in those times is usually to tell someone about what the Lord has done for us. We want to share His love with others.
You must remain loyal to your response to Him in those moments when you have come closest to Him! Repeat that response on the good days and the bad. When you feel like it and when you don’t. That, my friend, is what pushes back the darkness!
That is what faith, as small as a mustard seed, can do. “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord answered, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)
Will you be that one who has faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed? Faith that is loyal to your response to God’s revelation of Himself and His truth to you. Faith that gives you enough courage to share that revelation with those around you. Faith that inspires other Christians to do the same.
If so, go into 2022 with great joy knowing that I too will be in my little corner of the world singing God’s praises and sharing His truth; pushing back the darkness with His wonderous light.
SONG OF THE SHEPHERDS by Richard Bauckham
We were familiar with the night.
We knew its favourite colours,
its sullen silence
and its small, disturbing sounds,
its unprovoked rages,
its savage dreams.
We slept by turns,
attentive to the flock.
We said little.
Night after night, there was little to say.
But sometimes one of us,
skilled in that way,
would pipe a tune of how things were for us.
They say that once, almost before time,
the stars with shining voices
the new born world.
The night could not contain their boundless praise.
We thought that just a poem —
until the night
a song of solar glory,
eclipsed the luminaries of the night,
as though the world were exorcised of dark
and, coming to itself, began again.
Later we returned to the flock.
The night was ominously black.
The stars were silent as the sheep.
Nights pass, year on year.
We clutch our meagre cloaks against the cold.
Our aging piper’s fumbling fingers play,
night after night,
an earthly echo of the song that banished dark.
It has stayed with us.