O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, you open, and no one shuts, you shut, and no one opens: come, and lead the prisoner from jail, seated in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Jesus' Advent is rather both like and unlike Prometheus bringing fire: it's not enough that he has fire, he has to bring it to all of us. We must become fire. What, exactly are you imprisoned by? The verse says "darkness and shadow of death". Let us set aside "shadow of death" for a moment... but St Paul has some stuff to say about "darkness" in his Epistle to the Ephesians:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; Proving what is well pleasing to God: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light.
Ephesians 5:3-13Even writing to the saints of God, he admits that "you were heretofore darkness" something has happened, however, and the Ephesians are "now light in the Lord." Nunc autem lux. - You are now light. In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus says, Vos estis lux mundi. "You are the light of the world."
We do however, have a painful ministry: the purpose of light is to illuminate the darkness.
Tim Tebow, a professional football player, is getting a lot of press lately: his girlfriend broke up with him because he won't have sex with her prior to marriage. That's shining a light on the darkness and it's bothering people: so they are making fun of him for not committing fornication with Miss Universe. This is the second girl to dump him for this reason, the last one being a Children's TV star.
I wish I had learned that lesson in my teens... I might not still be struggling with becoming an adult now. We're imprisoned in darkness. The thing about darkness is you can't see how bad it all is. When someone comes along and shines a light on it, you've got a choice to make: step away or yell at the light-bringer.
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Sex, however, is easy to point at and too expected: we're surrounded by darkness. Abortion, war, suicide, guns, violence, slow destruction by drugs and alcohol, TV shows and computer games that glorify killing - but even that's too easy. Our comedy is dark: making just fun out of our darker evils. Have you ever seen a show called "Absolutely Fabulous"? It's anything but. Reality TV allows us to see everyone's darker side. Other TV shows glorify gluttony, greed, anger, and arrogance. Our politics is filled with the glory of lies and expediency.
The thing is, all this darkness is death. Humans are not mushrooms and we need light to live. But we have, as it were, become convinced that we are mushrooms. We think all of this is normal - healthy. The Evil One makes us hate what is good for us and love what is bad for us. In fact this is such a good trick of his, that he makes us think the bad stuff really is us. A friend speaking of the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage said she "was given my full humanity..." I had no idea how to peacefully challenge her on that point. That's not your humanity: that's a lie. What part of my life in Christ has failed so much that she could her I would agree with her, and what part of my inability to have a peaceful reply allows her to continue in that mistake? We let Jesus deal with that, I think, and her confessor.
But how is your life a light that shines in the darkness? How is mine so? St Paul says, "Walk as children of the Light" and Jesus says, "Let your light shine before men". Paul says that will prove the truth of God, Jesus says "that men may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven." Paul adds that it will reprove the works of darkness.
Which, of course, means they won't like us so much any more.
That is the whole point of Christmas becoming a light in a world of darkness and dying for it.