Children of Light in Dark Places

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Back in October, I was doing Outreach with Sean and Sill on the South Side. We sat on our usual park bench with a bag of candy, pretzels, and granola bars, enjoying the fall breeze. A man was about to walk right past us when he changed course abruptly. “Oooh! I feel the presence of God coming off that bench!” he exclaimed as he approached.

He stopped only briefly, not even sharing his name, to chat about the weather and the Cubs’ amazing season, grabbing a little candy as he did. “I’ll catch you later,” he said after a minute or two, “but I want you to know: you guys do amazing work, ‘cause there’s a lot of darkness out here. No one’s out here doing what you do. So God bless you guys!” He beamed as walked away.

That’s not the first time I’ve heard that. Sometimes our Outreach teams are called a beacon of hope, or a light, or people who have the presence of God radiating out from us. In the literally (for our night-time Outreach) and spiritually dark places where we reach out, we are often the only people without ulterior motives that the guys encounter. We listen without judgment, sharing the Lord’s love as He gives us the opportunity.

This past Christmas season reminded me of the darkness of the world that Christ stepped into as Emmanuel, God-with-us. Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah: “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Jesus came during a time of great darkness, when oppression, persecution, and death at the hands of the rulers were unsurprising, even expected. And still he chose to enter our world, vulnerable as any of us, to be “the true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).

As he was, so each of us is called to be light in a dark world, a living reminder that the Kingdom is coming, that “the night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13: 12). Let us imitate Christ in this way, as he proclaims through his coming the dawn of a day when all things are made new.

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