BY STEPHEN ALBI - STUDENT MINISTRIES PASTOR, CROSSWINDS CHURCH
Imagine some of the most vivd and striking images you’ve seen. A stark silhouetted tree against an orange, yellow and pink sky. A dark mountain capped with pure white snow. A bright red flower against a endless sea of green leaves and stems. What makes a image most striking is the use of contrast. Artists seek out contrast. As Bob Ross says many times in "The Joy of Painting," his popular television series: "Light against light just gets lost, you need dark for the light to show."
If you were to put highlights down on your "happy little tree" without putting down a dark base color, the highlights would be lost on the background. They would be baseless, floating forms with no underlying structure. The dark color underneath grounds the highlights against something. It gives them depth and shadow. Without the dark color, the light wouldn’t shine so bright. The trees wouldn’t be so "happy."
Why is our eye naturally drawn to contrast? It's said that the first things babies see are not forms, but contrast between light and dark. What is it about certain combinations of light and dark, opposite colors, or contrasting textures that makes us take notice of a scene? It is because it reminds us of real life.
"You need dark for the light to show."
Set against the oppression of Roman rule, in a time when God had seemingly been silent for over 400 years, things were dark. Hints at a savior had been sprinkled through prophesies told throughout the generations, but when so many years had past, many of the stories were drifting into legend and myth. Some zealous warriors tried to fulfill some of the prophesies through revolt and military action but failed against dominant Roman rule. Many were losing hope that God would send a savior. Then, light broke through the darkness.
In "Israel's breadbasket," Bethlehem, born to refugees shunned by their family for being pregnant out of wedlock, the Light came into the world. How would you portray such a scene?
Take a moment to picture this scene visually. I see dark blue and black (or black and blue, whatever your preference) covering the entire landscape. Deep, dark color with no white shining through. The sky and the land are indistinguishable from one another, a dark form on the horizon could be clouds or hills. There is no way to tell what anything is, the forms are all dark and indefinite. Then against the darkness a small patch of bright yellow sits off-center. It isn't where one would expect it. It is not the sun in the East. It is not the bright fire set in a grandiose castle to the West. No, it emanates from someplace unlikely, from a cave where animals sleep. A spot devoid of comforts, lit not by a fire, but by the glowing face of God's only Son. One day that light will spread to cover the whole earth, but in this scene, it is small but vivid, it calls out to the rest of the scene but has not yet spread. It is only a beginning.
The apostle John describes the impact of this scene in his Gospel: "The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13 ESV)."
Many have wondered why God chose this time and place for the birth of Christ. Why a manger and not a castle? Christ was to be a servant, not above the people in any way. Why a disposed mother and father shunned by their families? Christ would one day be shunned by all people, despised and beaten. Why the darkness? So the Light would show.
There are many of you right now who can sympathize with this. You've experienced darkness and maybe it seems like there will never be light again. If your current situation seems hopeless, remember that sometimes the greatest light comes out the the greatest darkness. Light can never be extinguished by darkness. Look to Christ, the light of the world, to find hope. Reach out to someone who will speak light into the darkness through God's Word and be a comforting and helpful presence. Maybe, you'll even come to praise God for a difficult, dark time because it made His light shine so much brighter in your life.