The Darkness and the Light

Published December 1, 2021 by Michael Shirl

A Voice is Heard in Ramah... (Matthew 2:18)

Quietness pierced the night sky; blackness illuminated by countless pinpricks of light. The new moon was barely visible above the horizon and a sudden breeze curled around the lentil, startling awake the cattle and oxen. Mother and father awaken, pulse quickening for reasons yet unknown.

In a moment their lives are transformed. Their children have been taken away—slaughtered. There is no reason; there is only violence and death to the least and the defenseless innocents. In a matter of minutes quiet returns. The night is heavy; the wails of grief rising into the vast darkness and void. There is no voice calling back to them.

It will be days before they hear the rumor of an "infant king." Their quiet village is suddenly part of a larger than life drama to which they never auditioned. They really don't care about an infant king even if He was the Messiah. Their little boys were dead and no king, emperor, or lord could ever bring them back. Merry Christmas.

Well, this probably doesn't seem like much of an Advent reading. But hang in there with me. I have wonderful memories of Sharna and me with our children and her family—laughing, opening presents, eating good food, driving through ice storms, singing Christmas carols in the car, and going to see Christmas lights. There are the many Christmas Eve services and even the year that our tree (artificial) was still up until just before Easter! I love the season.


There is always a voice in Ramah. There is always a Rachel crying for her children who are no more. There is always grief and loss for which there is no reason. There is always the violent death of the innocents. There is always a loss that no infant king can undo. Each of us has, or will have, a loss that stays with us.

Amazingly, that is why Christmas—Advent—is so powerful. Advent is the pinprick of light breaking through the darkness; it is the outline of an unfolding Hope that wraps around and swallows the darkness; it is the full moon and it is the morning sun. Advent carries us through our seasons of darkness to Easter's glorious light. Morning has broken! Christmas joy to all!

Wherever you may be in the journey, in joy or in sorrow, let the Light of Christmas guide your path this season and throughout the coming year. Amen.

Michael and Sharna Shirl have been members since 1982. They have two adult children, Stephen and Kathleen, along with Kathleen's husband Ike, and granddaughters Marley and Devin.