For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. — Colossians 1:13-14
When my kids were little, our family caught a flu-like bug just before Christmas. I remember it clearly; we were in line, taking our kids to get a picture with Santa at Northpark Mall. I think it was the “rope” they put up to keep the crowd in line (at least, I blame it on that). For the past several days, each member of our family had been getting the “bug”. The kids rebounded fast, of course, and my wife had gone through a hard couple of days. By Christmas Eve, I was the only one who hadn’t shown symptoms. But as we gathered at my parents’ house that night, I started feeling it.
By Christmas morning, I was in full-scale reaction, and could hardly get out of the guest bed at my Mom and Dad’s house. My mom swooped in heroically with the whole “chicken-soup” treatment, daubing my face with wet bath cloths as my body tried to fight the illness, and supplying me with various types of remedies.
For that entire day, I lay in bed. I had some horrible nightmares. At one point, I imagined the devil himself was attacking me with all his demons. My wife says I said some strange things that day, but I remember very little of my waking hours. When my fever finally broke, it was late Christmas night. I was exhausted but finally free of the worst of the infection.
Fever is really a remarkable thing; it’s the body’s way of trying to destroy invading foreign bodies. Science has shown that fever can stimulate production of white blood cells and help move iron to the liver so it can’t be used by invading bacteria. But if you’ve had a fever, it’s like a nightmare. It leaves you exhausted. During worst of it, people often have strange thoughts and dreams, and say unintelligible things. That’s why it’s called a fever delirium.
In a way, we live our lives in a sort of fever delirium, but without its healing potential. It’s our default state. As we writhe in agony, desperately trying to fight the unseen enemy that snarls at us beyond the circle of light, we lash out in panic and fear. Hearing the rising clamor as the enemy advances upon us, we desperately flail in the darkness against the razor-sharp teeth. We can feel the putrid breath of the invisible enemy, his claws scratching on the floor as he advances toward us. The darkness is terrifying because we know that real threats await us in the void.
But through the impenetrable gloom, we begin to perceive something different: a light, piercing the darkness. Brighter than any supernova, more potent than any laser, more illuminating than any torch, it grows steadily. As its rays push back the gloom, its warmth envelops us with a sense of purpose, love and reassurance. The darkness flees as the brightness advances, and we can hear the retreating wails of the unseen enemy as he runs away in terror. He cannot abide in the presence of pure love.
And as the light illuminates the space around us, we can at long last see one another. We thought we were alone in our fight against the terrible darkness, but in the growing dawn, we see that we are the same — millions of us share the same desires, hopes, fears and challenges. And we begin to understand that our Creator’s love for us is limitless and satisfies every need.
Ephesians 5:8 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
The fever delirium is real. Billions of our fellow human beings ramble aimlessly in the dark, searching for some glimmer of hope. We have been commissioned to tell others the good news of our Savior’s life, death, burial and glorious resurrection. But sometimes, even we Christians, who should be united in our quest to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, fail to break the walls that we’ve put up to make ourselves feel safe. During our long fever delirium and even afterwards, we have lashed with our weapons of fear: hatred, mistrust, prejudice, suspicion. All such weapons are useless and powerless against the real enemy, but we have, in our desperation, turned them on one another. And they hurt.
We divide ourselves by race, by culture, by social status, by political affiliation, by doctrinal disagreements, by a thousand other things. Caught up in echo chambers of our own design, we lash out in fear at the darkness. Our words come back to us, modified and energized by anger, and they make us angrier. Our voices rise in tandem with our emotions, and we see only the worst in each other. All the while, millions perish.
But as our Creator reaches out his hand to us, we are warmed by the love he radiates, and in moments like the one we are now experiencing, he reminds us that the war has already been won. He reminds us that we are saved from the enemy only through great sacrifice. His own son, the Christ, fought the battle in our stead. The war is not over yet, but one day, he promises, our Savior will take his victory and vanquish the enemy forever. On that day, we will all stand together before our King, and people from every tribe and tongue will see one another as we truly are: children of the One True King, joint heirs in our Savior’s kingdom.
Perhaps it’s fitting, as we prepare to commemorate the coming of God’s precious and unique gift of grace on that night two millennia ago, that we recall the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:1-2, and verse 6): “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on 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 the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The path before us is clear; we must have the resolve to take it.
John 17:22-23 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
So, in this season of light, let us resolve to take that path. Let us throw down our swords, our hurtful words, our distrust and suspicion. Let us resolve to live up individually to the promise we made to Jesus when we accepted him into our hearts and put him on the throne. As we do, we will begin to radiate the light Christ has placed in us, taking that light to the far corners of the world which still linger in the darkness of sin and fear. In so doing, we will prepare for the day of his coming. The armies of darkness will flee, and the world will know the Prince of Peace.
On that day, the fever will finally break.
Devotion written for and delivered to the Mission Mississippi prayer breakfast, Nov. 22, 2016, Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.