By Ken Woodley
There was darkness all around.
I closed my eyes as tightly as I could to keep from seeing it, but I could hear the darkness breathing.
I felt its touch.
The darkness spoke my name.
My tongue and lips trembled in search of a prayer: an army, please, Lord, with swords raised, spears held high to push back against all of this darkness.
But no thundering hoofbeats came.
There was no clatter of metal weapons.
I was completely on my own.
Totally vulnerable to the darkness that, I felt certain, would soon have its way with me.
I was as helpless as the day I’d been born and reached frantically for the only thing I saw—even with my eyes closed—in a flash of flickering light beside me:
A small shoot had come out from the stump of Jesse.
A branch was growing out of his roots.
I opened one eye to take a peek.
Outside my window, a corner of the dark horizon was turning gray.
The spirit of the Lord began to call, like a single bird on a lonely limb of the last tree standing.
Darkness picked up its chainsaw to finish the job of clearcutting all hope but it was already too late.
A spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might began to brushstroke traces of pink and orange in the sky.
There was more to the world, after all, than the darkness that had surrounded me.
Shapes began to emerge in the gathering light.
And, even with one eye closed, I saw miracles.
I saw a leaf on a tree.
I saw my own wrinkles and veins.
I saw, as the theologian Henri Nouwen wrote in The Inner Voice of Love, my wolf lying down with my lamb.
My lion was eating straw like the ox.
And a little child was leading them.
A little child coming from Bethlehem.
No army to the rescue.
No swords and spears.
Just this little child.
And—what amazing grace—I knew his name.
“Jesus,” I called out to him.
And the darkness understood then that it had met its match.
Darkness knew the game was over.
Darkness knew the final score was set in stone for all eternity.
I opened both eyes as wide as I could and there was suddenly light all around. The little child had brought the light that never sets.
A light that could not and would not be extinguished.
A light that hope can trust.
A light that also shines inside us toward others waiting in the darkness.
I could hear the light breathing.
I felt its touch.
The light spoke my name.
My tongue and lips trembled with “Amen.”
And then I cried out, “Hallelujah!”
It’s echo became a refrain, and the darkness, itself, had turned to light.