A few years ago I visited Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, a cave system with 2.4 miles of passages open for tours. At one point in the tour, deep in the earth, our guide turned off the lights leaving us in complete darkness. My open eyes were strained and uncomfortable, trying to take in even the slightest image. Then another guide, from across the room, lit a small pen light. It was such a relief to see even the smallest light from a distance.
But the light mentioned in Isaiah is not merely a pen light; it is a GREAT light, giving more hope than ever imagined. And it is not seen from afar; it is seeking us out in the land of deep darkness, penetrating the countless layers of guilt, shame, and despair - shining directly upon us. What rejoicing! We celebrate as we would after a great harvest. But this bounty does not come from our labors. Instead, it is a tremendous gift given from love incarnate - "For a child has been born for us...; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Perhaps it's an occupational hazard or simply because it has become ubiquitous in our holiday culture, but I cannot read this passage in Isaiah without hearing portions of George Frideric Handel's Messiah. From the lower strings illustrating the darkness itself in "The people that walked in darkness" to the absolute jubilation in singing the titles given to the coming Messiah.
Prince of Peace!
We need not look far to see the terrible ruin of man. His hatred, greed, and lack of shame. We are living in a land of deep darkness. But upon us a great and everlasting light has shined. And the giver of this light is our Prince of Peace. How great our joy!