By Tanner Green, Orchard Group's New England Regional Director
Christmas is as needed as ever in 2022. While we've moved beyond of some of the difficulties of the pandemic, this year has not been immune to darkness: loss, regret, grief, and exhaustion persist. Darkness must be named to be dealt with, and light must shine to move forward in hope. The Bible's description of Christmas does both:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)
I am comforted in darkness by people who have been there and can relate. One of those people is Jesus. As the Author of life, Jesus wrote himself into the story – even with all of its darkness. After a pregnancy that likely generated whispers, gossip, and name calling, Jesus's young life was immediately threatened, prompting his family to become refugees. He then grew up in a family of humble means, under the power of a foreign regime. In adulthood, he experienced loss, had no place to lay his head, was rejected by those closest to him, and though innocent, was convicted as a criminal. He fulfilled the prophetic word as "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." By entering the darkness of the world, he can enter the darkness of your world and my world. Empathy!
But that's not all. Because darkness cannot contain the light, Jesus's presence in the story shined brightly. Hope shines in darkness. While walking this earth, the Great Physician overpowered blindness with new sight. He overcame deafness with new hearing. And astonishingly, he overturned death with new life. His words comforted the downtrodden, and his forgiveness reconciled the sinful. Jesus can and will do the same today. His presence empowers us to echo faithful predecessors who also inhabited dark times, “The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will…but even if he doesn’t, we want you to know we won’t serve other gods." (Daniel 3:17-18) This posture — God can deliver me! But even if he doesn't I still have hope! — unleashes resiliency. Power!
The empathetic power of Christmas invites us to be real about our dark seasons while simultaneously full of hope. People rarely stumble into this kind of light-filled life; rather, it’s often discovered in community that knows and reflects Jesus. This is why I’m excited about new church communities to be established this year in Portland (Jesse and Rebekah Lusko), Tampa (Isaac and Vanessa Petit-Frere), Boise (Landon and Brooke Hairgrove), and Ojai Valley, CA (Kyle and Joy Costello). People currently living in the despair of darkness will experience the Light of Hope.
Wonderful news from The House in Ferguson, MO. 12 people were baptised into new faith in Jesus! It's incredible to see all that God is already accomplishing in this community that is less than a year old.