Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

We imagine the night of Jesus’ birth as being cold. We envision a manger surrounded by animals huddled together to keep warm from harsh bitter winds.

The Bible doesn’t provide us the Nativity’s weather details, but Winter scenes do make a powerful metaphor to describe the condition of our world without Jesus. Winter is gloomy, deathly thin. Skies are gray, trees are stripped to skeletons that stand breathless like stone statues in the cold cutting wind.

This wintry landscape pictures the human plight before Jesus came. Jesus, by saying “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), taught us something was and is inherently wrong with human society. Our world is dark by nature.

We boast about being enlightened, but Jesus’ verdict contradicts us. He says we need help from outside us: guidance, teaching, light to scatter ignorance.

Without Jesus’ light, people don’t know how to live. We’ve learned how to send rockets to Mars and to perfect lasers, but when it comes to daily living, we often sit “in darkness, wrapped in gloom, groping amid mists and fogs” (Morgan).

We live in an explosion of knowledge, enjoying quantum leaps in science, physics, medicine, technology, genetics, etc. At the same time, our knowledge of what makes life worth living seems to be decreasing.

Intelligent, educated people are often clueless when it comes to knowing how to live a quality life. Increased information has helped us mechanically, but not meaningfully. We work faster yet sadder. We are smarter but more depressed, geniuses and nervous.

When it comes to the basic fundamentals of everyday living, our Lord’s assessment is painfully accurate, the world is in a terrible state of darkness. People struggle with life issues in the here and now, such as marriage, sex, meaning, relationships.

To many, everyday life is a mystery, a riddle. They feel there is more, but what? To help dispel this midnight gloom, Jesus left Heaven to be born in Bethlehem.

Not only has the knowledge explosion not answered our questions about life’s daily dilemmas, it has not helped us understand mysteries of the cosmos beyond us. What about life after death, Heaven, Hell?

What about spiritual forces out there beyond us, God, angels, Satan, demons? What about the future, the end of the world, Jesus’ Second Coming, Judgment Day?

Apart from Christ’s light, when it comes to these ultimate realities, the world’s level of enlightenment is pitch-black. Only Jesus can explain them.

Jesus has long been bringing light to these other-world issues. Charles Morris, in his work on historical tales of the English, tells how missionaries brought Jesus’ light to the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in the Middle Ages.

Prince Edwin of Northumbria was being wooed to Christianity by his wife, a new believer. Edwin decided to gather his nobles to discuss this new religion.

An elderly warrior spoke, “The life of man, O king, (is) as a sparrow’s flight through the hall when you are sitting at meat in winter-tide, with the warm fire lighted on the hearth, while outside all is a storm of rain and snow. The sparrow flies in at one door, and tarries for a moment in the light and heat of the fire within, and then, flying forth from the other, vanishes into the wintry darkness whence it came. So the life of man tarries for a moment in our sight; but of what went before it, or what is to follow it, we know nothing. If this new teaching tells us something more certain of these things, let us follow it.” With this, the new belief was accepted.

Jesus taught us what precedes our existence, what follows it, and what lies beyond it. Before He was born, our knowledge about these things was darkness.

The only One who could ever explain life’s perplexities entered our world. Jesus came to bring us God’s light, to change the wintry landscape of our hearts.

God became human. This is why angels rejoiced at His birth, why the shepherds came, why wisemen traveled to see the baby, and why to this day we celebrate His birth. We rejoice at the miracle of Christ’s coming, and celebrate His light by lighting our candles.