Midnight Light, part 2

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional, Darkness & Light; download your free copy today.

December 11

Midnight Light, part 2

by Meridith Matson

Holocaust survivor and Jew Viktor Frankl survived Auschwitz, one of the most brutal concentration camps during World War 2. He was also a neurologist and psychiatrist and took his experience in the camp as a chance to understand human behavior. Frankl is most known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning, originally titled in German: trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager. That is, “…Nevertheless Say ‘Yes’ to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp.”

Frankl observed three stages of most prisoners: shock, apathy, and lastly reactions to dehumanization. Ultimately, the prisoner’s ability to survive depended entirely on their outlook and inner world. If the prisoners had a hope for the future and a reason to hold on in their spirit, they would survive. If all hope was lost, they were destined to die in the camp one way or another.

Frankl writes about one memory in particular:

“We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk[…]

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

Reflection: How has love been an instrument of light and salvation for you in times of darkness?

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Midnight Light, part 1

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional Darkness & Light; download your free copy today.

December 10

Midnight Light, part 1

by Meridith Matson

The Jewish holocaust during World War 2 is perhaps one of the darkest times in most recent history. The mass murder of over 6 million Jews and other persecuted demographics left a haunting mark over human history. Humans killing and dehumanizing other humans is truly the darkest darkness that exists. The images and films of those beaten in the streets, taken captive, and forced into concentration camps, and the bare, skeletal ghosts of those who were still alive in these camps at the end of the war are etched on our minds.

This chapter of history leaves a stain of darkness. A time of “midnight” when it seemed the sun may not ever shine again.

Yet, darkness is where the light shines through. In the darkest darkness, sparks of hope still existed. Etched on the wall of a cellar in a concentration camp, these words of an unknown prisoner were found:

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.”

Reflection: In what ways have you had to wrestle with belief versus reality in your own times of darkness?

Darkness Overcome

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional Darkness & Light. 

December 3

Darkness Overcome

by Meridith Matson

Both darkness and light are themes throughout Scripture. Beginning with the opening of the Bible in Genesis 1 and 2, we watch expectantly as God calls order in an environment of chaos and speaks: “Let there be light” into complete and utter darkness.

Darkness can be chilling, isolating, depressing, and hopeless. Light brings warmth, hope, and causes the unseen to become seen. John says: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God himself is light, so where God is, there is light, and where God is not, there is darkness.

The prophet Isaiah says this: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” This, of course, foretold the birth of Christ, and that this event would bring light to people walking in deep darkness. Did the people know they were walking in darkness at the time of the prophecy? Did the first-century Jews know they were walking in darkness and realize when the light of Christ’s presence on earth finally dawned?

John also writes:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5. HCSB)

The darkness did not overcome the light, yet darkness had to exist to be overcome. Darkness was not created: in Genesis 1, the earth simply was dark and God spoke into the darkness to create light. John, bringing to mind the language of Genesis 1, also begins with creation, darkness, and light but also puts Christ, the Word, with God in the beginning. Once again, God continues to bring light into darkness, proving the light is more powerful than the darkness.

 

Reflection​​: How have you struggled with darkness during different seasons of your life and how did you work through those seasons? Consider how seasons of darkness make seasons of light brighter.

Darkness & Light

With Advent just around the corner beginning on Sunday, December 2, a few friends and I have a gift for you this season: a free, reflective devotional. Collaboration across oceans, made possible by technology, this is our labor of love to friends and family.

During this busy time of the year, make space for reflection as we ponder once again the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Darkness & Light Advent Devotional 2018

I know…

I know, I know. My blogging isn’t exactly a regular thing for me these days. With moving, starting new jobs, and both pursuing education, my husband and I don’t exactly have much “extra” time on our hands. And when we do… find us on the couch watching This is Us or outside going for a walk or in the kitchen cooking #priorities.

BUT, this is the time of year you all know I blog the most… Advent! Advent is a special time for me personally and an opportunity for us all to slow down, pause, and tell the story once again about a baby born in a manger 2,000 years ago.

Stay tuned for a special FREE reflective Advent devotional, put together by me and a few friends. Take a moment each day during this busy season, and reflect on the one who came to bring light and into our dark, sin-filled world. More to come…

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fullness of time

The following is an excerpt from the free Advent devotional guide “Silence and Sound.”  Download your free copy today here.

Week 3 Day 20: Fullness of Time
by meridith matson

In the fullness of time
Not too early, not too late
Time, pregnant with expectation; time, pregnant with hope

The wall, rebuilt
Captives return home
Israel, no longer dispersed, living together in the land
The last prophet, Malachi says, “remember the Law of Moses”[1]
and a promise, to “send Elijah to Israel before the day of the Lord.”[2]

Then, silence as they listened.
No more words from heaven,
just deafening silence.
As they strained to hear.

Has God forgotten us?
Have we sinned so much that God turned his back on us?
No.  In silence, God waited too.
God waited for the “Pleroma”- fullness of time.

God waits, as Israel listens.
“When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law,
to redeem those under law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”[3]

First, God’s voice is heard in the wilderness,
PREPARE THE WAY; repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

A voice calls then; a voice still calls now.
But only those who hear, will hear the message.

Only those who listen intently,
listen in the silence, wait in the darkness
will have ears to hear the message:
The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Contemplation:

In our world today we are surrounded by constant noise: people, media, entertainment, transportation. Today, how can you strive to hear God’s voice? How can you strive to hear others?

 

[1] cf. Malachi 4:4
[2] cf. Mal 4:5-6
[3] Galatians 4:4-5

Silence and Sound, Day 4

The following is an excerpt from a free advent devotional guide put together by myself and several close friends.  To download this guide, see here.

Week 1
Day 4: The Intertestamental Period
by meridith matson

Within one blank page in our Bibles, much happens in the story of the nation of Israel and within the scope of world history as well. This page between the Old and New Testaments represents a 400 year period of time known as the the Intertestamental Period. This era is known as a time of silence, where God does not speak through a prophet. This time of silence, however, was not an uneventful period in history, or an idle time in which God was not actively present in the world. There were many changes in the region of Israel that also directly impacted the people of Israel during this time.  

The rise of Alexander the Great, and his conquests within this region of the world, significantly impacted culture.  His ideals, as taught to him by the philosopher and his teacher, Aristotle, gave him a vision for unity.  During this drive for unity the Greek language, culture, and ideals were violently forced upon the world in a process known as Hellenization. After the death of Alexander the Great, the areas he conquered were divided into four sections ruled by four generals.  

Another significant period was the Maccabean Era (165-63 BC).  During this time, an elderly priest named Mattathias rebelled against Syrian officials who were trying to force the Jewish people to participate in heathen activities. As a result, a large group of faithful Jews followed him and later led the “Maccabean Revolt.”  These Jews were responsible for eventually cleansing the Temple and restoring devout Jewish worship.  In their persistence, they created the culture and norms present when Jesus shows upon the pages of the New Testament.

Upon further study, we see that though it was a time of silence God was anything but removed from His people.  In the fullness of time, when everything was culturally, politically, and religiously the way God intended them to be, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born of a young Jewish girl.  And through this baby, change arrived: not just for those of Jewish descent, but for the entire world.

Contemplation:
Can you think of some “blank pages” in your life, times when you felt God was silent or that you had removed yourself from God’s presence? What unexpected revelations came out of that time?

 

For more on the Intertestamental Period see: http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/spiritual-life-studies/the-intertestamental-period-and-its-significance-upon-christianity