“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
I would have been a terrible nightwatchman.
Back in ancient times, nightwatchmen would be the ones to whom everyone in a town entrusted their lives while they slept. When the sun went down, the nightwatchmen would be on guard high up in the watchtowers and sitting on benches at the town gates. As the night would descend, the watchmen would stand increasingly vigilant, surveying the countryside for any signs of movement. Be they friend or foe, the nightwatchmen would treat each incoming soul with caution.
But humans weren’t the watchman’s greatest foe, for one person can only do so much harm. The watchman’s mortal enemy was night. Darkness. The cloak of secrecy.
I’ve been awake many mornings watching the sun rise, photographing it for hobby. What always amazes me (and catches me off guard) is how the sun is always preceded by the dawn. If the sun rises at, say, 6:40am, then it’s a safe bet that the dawn will arrive at 5:40am. Stars will slowly fade as the daylight washes ashore. Gradually, your surroundings become clearer. There are mountains, or trees, or clouds.
As a tent camper, I’ve learned first-hand how important the dawn is to peace of mind. The first few nights I ever spent in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge were some of the most intimidating nights I’ve ever lived through. Creatures of all ilk roam the night and my tent has merely one layer of thin fabric. Some creatures have claws… and teeth… and ill temperaments. As I lay down in my tent I am fully aware of how vulnerable I am.
I’ll never forget that first night in the mountains. All night I heard the rustling of leaves outside my tent. I heard grunting and snorting and chuckling (OK, I made that last one up). I felt the wind blow against my tent. At least, I think it was the wind. It was a miserable night. I couldn’t wait for the morning to come. I prayed for morning. All… night… long.
In the Old Testament, there always seems to be a period of darkness before there comes a light. According to the Hebrew calendar, a day starts at sunset and not at midnight or sunrise. So even the Hebrew day begins with night. Interesting, eh? In Isaiah 9:2 it says that those living in darkness will see a great light. In John 1, Jesus is that light. He broke the darkness. And the promise of life in Christ is that even during dark times, dawn will always come. For Jesus has overcome this dark world.
Dawn not only has great beauty but also great peace. It’s easier to be peaceful when we can see, right? The dawn ushers the darkness away and allows us to take sure-footed steps. I like sure-footed steps. Tripping over a guy wire repeatedly even though you know it’s there ain’t fun. But it just happens to match the color of the ground at night. Which is dark.
Here’s to the sun!