Christmas Day is past. The multi-colored lights are coming down, and dried-up trees now find themselves in the trash heap. Is the season of Christmas so soon dimmed? The grand season of blinking lights comes and goes, with little more effect than crumpled tinsel on a discarded tree.
Such gloomy thoughts may cause us to pause as we stand at the cusp of a new year. Will the new year we enter be brighter, or will the darkness so prevalent still prevail?
David, the king, faced similar questions. From Psalm 27, we learn of some crisis in his life. He found himself uncertain about the future. Often, a future of dark, foreboding skies lay before him—not only because of enemies but also because of his sin. Intense and unrelenting pressures pushed down on David as he led the nation.
True, much power and wealth came with being a king—but such earthly trappings did not guarantee a bright, shiny future. Read through David’s psalms. You will find them to be honest. He doubts God can deliver, his confidence wavers, all while He is crying out to God for relief.
Psalm 27 is different. In boldness, David proclaims God as his light, while also admitting he is unsure what lay before him in his future. So, he steadies himself to “rely on the Lord.” Unsure of the future, a confidence still punctuates David’s words. My heart will not fear, I am confident, He will set me high, I will sing and experience the Lord’s goodness.
The psalm begins with an explosion of faith, laying waste to the walls of doubt: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom should I fear? He is the stronghold of my life. Of whom should I be afraid?
David’s confidence, a conviction prompted by the Spirit of God, is also your confidence. You may not realize as much. Unbelief does not recognize what is. So, tonight, you might cringe at the thought of a new year, which is one reason God comes to us in His authoritative Word. Through His Word, God brings you what He wants to give you, which builds and strengthens faith.
The Lord is your light and your salvation. Whom should you fear? He is the stronghold of your life. Of whom should you be afraid?
God’s light exposes and banishes fear. David is not speaking about visible light. His question, “Whom should I fear?” is rhetorical. David is living in the Lord’s light, so nothing should cause him to fear. God’s light reveals his enemies. Faith understands and delights in God and His all-revealing light; fear disbelieves such an eternal reality.
You come home late at night, by yourself. The power is out at the house. No lights are on, and you’re spooked. You might manage to rustle up a candle, but you can’t travel too far or too fast without tripping. A flashlight will give you a better sense of security, but the light beam only shines in one direction. A lantern will be better yet, but dark shadows will still skulk and hide in the crannies of your home. What’s the point? The more all-encompassing the light, the less fear occupies your life.
So, David begins his psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The Lord’s light burns away the darkness, becoming our salvation. God drives out darkness and sends away our fears. Yes, gloom and shadows will surround you somewhere or sometime in the coming year, but whatever may come, the light of the Lord will still be blazing.
David does not live in a fantasy world. He doesn’t suggest God will remove the darkness of the world—or from his life. To do so would be the immediate end of our lives. Darkness is a reality when you live in a sinful world.
David, instead, describes how the darkness still touches him. Darkness is the power of sin, which blinds our eyes to God’s glory shown to us in Christ Jesus. So, do not linger in sin’s darkness; yet, we still must examine the unwanted visitor to prepare ourselves for its attack.
David does not deny an attack from enemies. “The wicked may advance against me to devour my flesh.” Evil exists in the world. The darkness uses people to put out the light in the lives of others. Your eyes take in the horrific acts committed in this world, but you might be too timid to use the word “evil.”
Evil takes many forms. The obvious is the serial killer, the person with a seared conscience, who would kill out of convenience as easy as drinking a glass of water. Spiritual evil also exists, which belittles faith and undermines the Church of Christ. Such evildoers will stumble and fall, if not now, in eternity.
Still, do not be lulled into thinking real evil doesn’t exist; otherwise, you will also forget the power of the light to save you. David recognizes the spiritual warfare surrounding us. The armies of Satan encamp against us.
Satan is the master of spiritual darkness, where he wages his war against God’s people. He seeks to drag us into darkness and bind us in a place where our lives are empty of God’s light. Like David, we can be confident in the Lord and the light He shines: “Though an army besieges me, my heart will not fear.”
Perhaps, the most dangerous darkness originates from inside us. The darkness of our sin blinds us to the enemy within. Who wants to think we are our worst enemies? We want to use ourselves as the standard of measurement. I don’t need to repent; others are wrong, not me.
So, we don’t listen to others—but they better listen to me! Why do you think God set up His Church the way He did? He chooses for His Word to come to you, from outside yourself. “Faith comes from hearing, and what is heard comes through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). God’s Word coming to you in such a way keeps you from confirming the sinfulness inside you.
God set up His Church in such a way to confront you: to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. He uses the power of His Word to unlock your eyes to His light. So, what happens when you refuse to listen to God and the ways He chooses to come to you? You’re driving yourself into the darkness and away from His light.
What does Scripture call such behavior? Sin. God’s Holy Word commands: “Do not neglect to meet for worship, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). So, where will the darkness lurk in the coming year? The same place as this year: in our hearts. Darkness churns inside us.
David is sure. He will “experience the Lord’s goodness in this land of the living.” Like David, you are to be where God’s Word comes to you. God comes to you from outside yourself. He keeps you from confirming some lie as truth because you want it to be so.
God used Prophet Nathan to deliver His Word to David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. David’s guilt melts away, and he weeps in God’s forgiving light. Where God’s life-giving Word comes to you, you experience His light.
God’s light is stronger than the darkness of your sin. God shows as much when He sent Light into the world. I don’t mean the visible light of creation, but the Light God sent into the world to re-create everything.
Who are what is this light, which will re-create all? Jesus, He is the Light of whom King David spoke. St. John records Jesus’ words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Our Lord’s birth at Christmas celebrates the power of light over darkness. Our Christmas Eve service, with the lighted candles, helps to teach us this truth every year. Your salvation does not depend on what you achieve. Jesus carried out your salvation when the Light of the world drove out the darkness of sin.
In the gloom of cross and death, Jesus outshone the darkness. Your faith is rooted in our Lord’s light from His cross. In this light, Jesus’ death, God casts His bright beams of forgiveness for your sin, including the sin of stubborn ears. In this light, all the evil, including the armies of Satan, stumble and fall. Jesus is the Light of your salvation.
Jesus is your light and your salvation, not only at Christmas but all year long, into eternity. What does this mean? Jesus is the brightness of the new year. He will be with you to guide and protect you against all darkness. The Word from outside yourself this day tells you so. So, whom should you fear?
Our Lord’s light never goes out. Every other source in creation will flicker out and die. Not so with the bright beams of the Lord. They are eternal. We strive forward, awaiting the end of darkness. The Day will come, the Last Day when our Lord returns.
God used the Apostle John to show us the eternal city of heaven. God’s city “doesn’t need the sun or the moon to give it light, for God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb [Jesus].” (Revelation 21:23). Jesus is the Light, who illumines eternity.
Yes, gloom and darkness will still cross our paths in the coming year. What of them? The Lord is your light and your salvation. Whom should you fear? The Lord is the stronghold of your life. Of whom should you be afraid? The darkness cannot overcome His Light. Amen.