This past Advent, a small team and I were tasked with planning and leading our Christmas Eve worship gathering. In lieu of a message or sermon, we decided to motivate a small team of performers and tell the big story of Jesus entering into humanity-the incarnation.
God’s Son, Jesus, took on human flesh and entered our struggle. He celebrated humanity and affirmed God’s love for us. If any of us were wondering if God cares about the world, we needn’t look any further than Jesus!
Our group of 7 [Laurel, Ethan, Anna, Lucas, Zach, Kaile, and yours truly] performed this poem Christmas Eve for our church and the many guests who were present from out of town.
Ok, about this poem. It’s in the spoken word style, so if you’re unfamiliar head to YouTube and look it up. Essentially, it’s a rhythmic iteration of poetry that holds all the typical elements of poetry in one hand while clinging to lyrical performance with the other. It’s a thing of its own.
For this poem, it ended up taking a fourfold format. Inspired by the insights of my friend and co-worker Suzanne, it traces the theological theme of light entering darkness throughout four portions of Scripture:
1. Genesis 1-3 / 2. The Old Testament Prophets / 3. John 1:1-14 / 4. Matthew 1 & Luke 1-2
I’d suggest reading this out loud or taking turns with a small group of people. There are some italicized and bolded words, and this was part of the original formatting for the poem. The markings serve to highlight inner rhyming and alliteration, and assisted the readers [and myself of course!] in our performance role.
If anyone is inspired to tuck this away and use it in any form or function, I would love to hear about how it connects with listeners-so please keep me informed!
Ok. Here goes.
Light Enters Darkness
“Let there be light” spoke an ancient voice over an expanse of space filled to overflowing with darkness, there was no sun glowing, there was nothingness; there was emptiness waiting for divine direction, restless creation waiting for God’s creative initiation-and the only relationship was between the creative One and the expanse that had been caused – from nothing, ex nihilo – to come – so: now there was something.
“Let there be light” came this word from an ancient Creator, spinning together a world in the expanse of space, separating every night from its day, governing each rotation of the planet with God’s particular pace; now there were distinct days – and while each night offers a break from the hot sun, each day is filled brightly filled with energetic light, and every turn of the madly rotating globe gives the sun a chance to offer new hope: yes, let there be light!
“Let there be light” rang out the word, and it was heard all throughout the cosmos, it echoed even as the stars came into their celestial setting and plants began to grow; and our planet’s first inhabitants quickly began to feel love the Creator was showing. And although the glowing light of day caused night to flee for many hours as it radiates, darkness would eventually creep in in the form of a snake displacing the tranquility of a world so newly made within the vastness of space.
“Let there be light” became less metaphorical and more practical as spiritual darkness wrapped its shadow over our spherical planet. Adam and Eve couldn’t stand it, but theirs were the only hands in it; their actions had landed them in opposition–opposition–opposition to their source, their hope for their children’s children. They had chosen to rebel from their Creator though he still pursued them.
Yes, “let there be light” was a promise that did not cease after our ancient ancestors experienced death; no, there was more story left waiting to be told as a brief portion of inspired text revealed the plans that God would execute throughout history. And yeah it’s a mystery Jesus was distant to Eve and Adam, and yeah Jesus is not mentioned by name-but God’s ultimate intention remained. Jesus would eventually come to crush the serpent’s taunting head, trampling down death by his own death, one day shocking the evil powers that thought the end of a life meant the continuation of the world’s spiritual night.
“Let there be light” was a promise, yes, for the sun to shine and divide day and night; but God’s true delight was to eventually end the seemingly endless cycles of violence that continue turning human creativity into a crushing proclivity toward complacent silence. Yes, God was tireless in his promises and he put into motion a plan, from the start, that placed eternity as a central desire in human hearts.
Let. There. Be. Light.
Light will one day come to this world currently shielded spiritually from the son, the prophets, priests, and psalmists wrote about a light that would come break in, that would come take on sin and remove this barrier for all men and women. These writers were woke, ready to offer hope to the beaten down people of Israel-and what was spoken? What new horizons did they open? What could these ancient people put their hope in?
Light will one day come to this world and brighten the night like an explosion, but the oceans of text we behold first told of a king who do real justice on planet earth, who was foretold to rule righteously through a humble birth in obscurity. Insightfully, the Psalm-writers insisted we worship the king who would one day appear, though they often got distracted with their own rulers and their own political atmosphere, the ancient writers were still pretty keen on the gravity of God someday portraying himself eternally-and clearly-to all people, to those who are far, like us, and to those who were near.
Light will one day come to this world, and it was supposed to be a virgin who would conceive, and yeah that’s hard to believe but God would also give us eyes to spiritually see, so in keeping with the words of Isaiah maybe this foretelling was to be taken literally. Isaiah spoke of a virgin conceiving a baby. Yeah, well maybe, though the idea was swell few believed Immanuel, God with us, was something they could really trust-mainly because they sometimes lost faith that God is truly for us.
And yet, they insisted: Light will one day come to this world, said Micah. From the tribe of Judah, he said, from Bethlehem-the house of bread-and instead of just feeding the people for a day Jesus would rescue them from death. He would shepherd his people and become their peace, yes, this man born in obscurity, he would spiritually release them from captivity and bring them life eternally: this was the prophetic certainty.
Light will one day come to this world, the prophets said. Israel would finally be secure and vindicated; their nation’s suffering wasn’t wasted, for everything God initiated could now be tasted and seen [even touched and believed!] ..their holy nation was newly appreciated for giving the world Light to see, a living hope to believe. Though not all would eventually perceive the subversive authority of a new Messiah, the many who would receive Him would know he didn’t just die on Calvary’s tree but he rose up and conquered hell below then ascended to sit at heaven’s throne.
Light will one day come to this world said the prophets-nothing could stop it repeated Isaiah, for one special night a Savior would be born who be called Christ the Lord. The people would see a great light and darkness would be dispelled when Jesus would rhetorically compel them to understand their ancient laws in a new way. In this new day they would come out of the spiritual dark and discover their law was meant not to simply govern outer actions but to transform the heart.
Yeah, light will one day come to this world-but there was a lot of waiting involved as silence crept over the prophets and the Spirit was hushed and; for four-hundred years the people had to trust and believe that all of their fears would someway, somehow lead to deep peace. The captives would one day be released, and God’s people would help the world to see hope unfurled through the clouds and darkly shrouded swirls.
Yes, insisted the prophets: light will one day come to this world.
Jesus the Life-Light was first – present to God from day one. Moon and sun came later, stars would expand into space at the hands of the Creator; but the Word was first in this plan; the God-Man was already prepared to become humanity’s Savior. The Word was first, and as all creation began to burst out of the formless expanse, everything was held together in Jesus’ careful hands. Yes, Jesus the Life-Light blazed out of the darkness and the darkness couldn’t put the light out, and though the creation would come unglued the creative life-light would one day come down to pursue God’s plan to turn everything around.
Jesus the Life-Light was first – present to God from day one. And at the apex of history, a man named John would come into the nexus of creation’s fragility-to baptize and mark out the path to the kingdom of God according to salvation’s necessity. He came as a nephew-to-be to Joseph and Mary, who was also carrying a surprise baby: Jesus, John’s cousin-to-be. John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were scared to death as their parenting role shifted for the years they had left, yes-they were old-but as their story unfolds our eyes behold the hope of one who would go before the Messiah, boldly proclaiming the coming day of the Lord.
Jesus the Life-Light was first – present to God from day one. So as John pointed the way to the Life-Light, he did everything he could do to live right, to give sight to those who always felt like they were tightly sealed in the darkness; John started to proclaim a new kind of hope to the chosen people of Yahweh, the one God of all gods. John explained a new way of carving out identity, how God’s people weren’t meant to be an entity unto themselves but a people ready to be responsive to the world’s deepest needs. In history we see how Jesus was supported, freed, and upheld because of his cousin John, we see him as a foundation He was built upon, through the relational plan of God.
Jesus the Life-Light was first-present to God from day one. The Son, the life-light, was tempted, tried, and rejected by many of his own people; so many were caught in the swirls of evil directives and they couldn’t believe he was who he claimed to be even though it was plain to see his ministry was filled to the brim with real healings yet maintaining an emphasis on spiritual seeing.
Yes, believing was the hardest part, for the people walked in darkness, and though they saw a great light, Jesus the Life-light was often confused for another desert leader stealing the limelight. And yet Jesus insisted we are blessed who believe without seeing, so even though faith is supported through the doubts of Thomas we can honestly trust the promise of the Life-Light is also for us.
Jesus the Life-Light was first – present to God from day one. So when He finally did come on a special night, the Life-Light, the Son came to usher in the kingdom and make not only our spiritual lives, but all creation right.
Mary / Joseph Sequence
“You will have a son” said this angel, and I was sort of, well, overcome. See, my life story hasn’t exactly been boring but imagining a baby boy inside my body was beyond what my mind could explore at that point. But the angel implored me not to be afraid, I had found favor with God; I was okay, even with all the mistakes I’ve made over my years, my weeks, my days. Yeah, it’s okay, it’s okay. But then I had to tell my fiancé.
…It’s ok, said my fiancé, but that wasn’t the news I felt ready to hear that day, NO. The heat of anger rose up in my soul as her words scattered over me, and as I lost control, then BOOM! As I put my hand down on the table my voice rose slightly in my outer self and I asked Mary un-politely what really happened to her that night she gave herself to someone else. But she sold me a crock story about the *Holy Spirit* – and I wasn’t prepared to hear that, my anger was so near that.. It ate me up, and I said forget that. And I turned and left, thinking I’d never come back.
“You will have a son” said this angel, and with Joseph, well, I wondered during the argument whether running away might make sense. But I hung in there, I stuck to my guns, and… I heard the message, and though my pregnancy had just begun I had no choice but to wait for Joseph to come back and listen close, to trust that somehow God would speak to my betrothed, that we could find the forgiveness we needed most. See, I had my simple testimony, and even though my time away from Joseph was overwhelmingly lonely I had God above holding me, I had God’s Son exploding me… and I had God’s Spirit enfolding me.
I was ready for a quick, quiet divorce; of course Mary had her story but I was still unconvinced-there had to be more for me. So I told myself let it be, I got down on my knees, and wrestling with the anger I couldn’t appease-the burning pain inside-I just closed my eyes and prayed for hope to return to my quiet life. I slept light… hoping for a peace from God to ease the unrest within me.
Inside, I wondered and prayed God would work within Joseph as he had in my life. I had tried to convince with my visitation story but in a moment of hesitation Joseph said, “that’s not working for me.” But God, if you can, speak to Joseph, speak to my love; can you assure him that I haven’t given myself to anyone? That I’m carrying your Son? That he’s still my beloved one?
I loved the feel of sleep. Then, as I rested, suddenly: a dream! Maybe you’ve had the kind of dreaming-feel where everything happening seems to be real-like you’re literally living out the scene? This was no third person dream experience; it was as real as hearing from someone else, someone else with authority, who clearly knew more than me. It was an angel-just like for my fiancé, Mary! An angel carried to me a message about Mary’s Son, the one that I had doubted, and the thing about it was she was speaking God’s truth-there was no way around it.
So the angel told me to name our little one Jesus, and mentioned something about how He’d one day free us, free us from sin and deliver us through the power given to Him. There was something about the ancient prophecies, something they foretold about Mary and me: He’s Immanuel-God with us-and all this from our tiny, unborn Son whom I haven’t yet even had the chance to love.
Vindicated. Vindicated! Though I had waited so patiently, now my joy can’t be overstated: Joseph finally believes me even if it took a God-given dream. You see God is good, so I’m gonna sing out, I’ll tell the world all about how God has looked upon me, seen me, freed me, believed in me, and even conceived the Son of God’s life deep inside me. Yes, the Mighty One has done great things for me; my heart explodes in celebration. From one generation to the next God’s mercy extends to those who fear him; He’s near to them. And for the humble ones seeking and trusting him he lifts them high. But God also brings down the proud and afflicts those who rule unjustly in his eyes.
Yeah, we can trust Yahweh to feed the hungry while the rich get richer but more spiritually empty. It doesn’t even make sense to me but God acts mercifully not only to my people, Israel, but to everybody who responds to the love of the God-child still inside me. Praise be to mighty Yahweh, the God who not only loves little old me, but cares enough for the world’s problems to not just let it be, but through his Son enter into history and through victory over death he would bind up our wounds, heal us, give us the Spirit with his breath; he would rescue us from our ancient enemy, and set us free.