What happens when you walk into a pitch-dark room and flip the switch on the wall? Light instantly floods the space. Your eyes reflexively squint and shift away from the painful brightness. All of the room’s dusty, dirty little secrets are exposed as the hood of darkness is thrown back. Sometimes you even hear the sickening scurry of little creatures desperate for new hiding places.
This is not the kind of light we imagine in this season of Advent. We burn candles, cozy up by twinkling Christmas trees, warm ourselves in front of the fireplace, and bemoan the season’s short days. We rejoice in Christ as the Light of the World, the Dawn of Grace, the Bright and Morning Star.
So why, then, does this light sometimes pierce us painfully, like a sudden flood of brightness to a dark room? Why does the light of Christmas sometimes feel less cozy and more … invasive?
What Hides in the Darkness
The answer is simple: sin. Sin is at home in the dark—it thrives there. It loves to hide and multiply under the shroud of darkness. But light and darkness cannot abide together. As the Apostle Paul explained, “When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Ephesians 5:13–14a). The gospel of John described it this way: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (3:19–20).
Exposed. What an uncomfortable word. If sin hides in the darkness, the Light of Christ dawning on our hearts will expose the ugliness present there. Sin cannot hide from the Sovereign One; it cannot abide in the presence of perfect holiness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b).
This would be hopeless news, that the advent of the Light of the World means the deepest darkness of every heart is laid bare. But the glorious news of the gospel invites us to bask in this light instead of squinting and scurrying away in shame. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). God did not shine this exposing light from afar—he sent Light Himself to dwell with us! Emmanuel.
And not only did He come to dwell with us—he came to suffer, die, and rise again on our behalf. Now God calls to his children and says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14b). If we are called out of the dead sleep of sin-slavery and put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we are reborn as children of light. Christ shines on us, and those clothed in his righteousness need not fear the light! Christmas glows warmly indeed for those who have been made alive with the Dawn of Redeeming Grace.
Responding to the Light
If we claim to be in Christ yet still find ourselves squinting uncomfortably in the Light of Christmas, let us examine our exposed hearts.
Are we truly children of light, or are we deceiving ourselves and continuing to stumble around in the dark (1 John 2:9–11; Rom. 8:7–8)? If God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are indeed His children, then we must remember our standing in Christ—no longer under condemnation, but under grace, and given a new nature (Rom. 8:16, Eph. 4:24).
The same grace that saved us now empowers us to grow in holiness. When sin tries to creep back in and is exposed by the Light, Christ is our advocate and the Spirit is our helper (1 John 2:1; John 14:16). “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:8–11).
If your heart feels exposed by the Light of Christ this Advent season, remember that He came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). Bring your sin to Him. Confess it specifically and seek His assured forgiveness (1 John 1:9). If your sin has affected others, confess to them as well and seek forgiveness and peace as much as it is in your power to do so (James 5:16; Romans 12:18). Or, if you can’t even name the sin troubling you, don’t hide in shame—instead pray with the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24).
Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and you are not alone. You stand with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and together as one Body we fight this Spirit-empowered battle until Christ returns in glory.