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All the good under the sun


Often, our deepest darknesses occur just before a flicker of light penetrates the darkness and fresh hope dawns.

BY PETER MCGUIGAN

As far as spectacular goes, nothing beats an ocean sunrise on a cloudless morning. Orange, pink and yellow hues in the sky herald a new day, and it’s not long before the sun peeks above the horizon, lighting up the Earth.

As I write, I’m in the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka. For three consecutive mornings, I have watched the sun rise over the Bay of Bengal from Trincomalee on the country’s north-east coast.

The night before the first morning, I checked what time the sun would rise – 5.50am! I made a point of being on the beach half an hour earlier to catch the early glow and first hints of colour as they began to show.

The darkness and us

There’s a saying that goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn”, first penned by English theologian Thomas Fuller in 1650. The phrase is actually not true in the natural world. Often, it is darkest much earlier in the night when the sun is furthest from the horizon.

The saying, like most, is a metaphor for life. It refers to dark times in our experience as human beings. Often, our deepest darknesses occur just before a flicker of light penetrates the darkness and fresh hope dawns.

For Thomas Fuller, I have no doubt it was about the God who watches over us and loves us, never failing to come through just at the right time. The first Christmas was a classic case, and, as a believer in Jesus, I take heart from how the prophet Isaiah and Gospel writers have written about it amid dark times on planet Earth.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, ancient Rome had annexed most of the known world for its own empire-expanding purposes. Nations’ freedoms, their right to self-government and autonomy had been curtailed. Their wealth had been pillaged, and their cultures and religions were challenged by colonisation.

Yet 700 years prior, the prophet Isaiah, himself living amid dark times, announced, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; to those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah chapter 9, verses 2, 6).

Light in the darkness

The Gospels record the finer details of Jesus’ birth, each focusing on light bursting through darkness:

  • “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him,” says Matthew’s account of the wise men from the east. They followed the star, and it stopped over the place where Jesus was born. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matthew 2:1-12).

  • “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,” says Luke’s account of shepherds in the field who were watching over their flock by night. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to them. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke chapter 2, verses 9-12).

  • “In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind,” says the Gospel of John. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John chapter 1, verses 4, 5, 9).

We need “the light” – something to believe in, something that far transcends our human myopia and distractedness and vulnerability to the darkness. Something with power to hold our focus, reach us deep within, and draw out from us all the good under the sun.

Major Peter McGuigan is an Australian Salvation Army officer who has been appointed as Property Secretary (Primary Appt.) & Assistant Secretary for Business Administration for the Sri Lanka Territory

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