Emmanuel. When I think of “God with us”, God come down, I think of mankind’s lifelong struggle to get it the other way around. To somehow transcend to God. Knowing our corruption and trying by all means to overcome it and somehow connect with our Creator.
About 30 meters out our front door stands a 25 meter tall pile of boulders. On top of that stack of boulders is a small tree, and at the bottom, a large flat-topped stone. Here people from the surrounding communities come to make sacrifices to their “Tiŋaana”, an ancestral spirit from the original settlers of the land who intercedes for them to “Nnayinɛ”, the Supreme Creator God. People give goats, guinea fowls, and chickens to the Tiŋaana for protection, for forgiveness for breaking taboos, and for a good harvest.
The priest of the Tiŋaana, given the name of the Tiŋaana at birth, was a very friendly older man of about 70 years. He was a very short, small framed man; very muscular for his age with a bushy grey head and beard. I was deeply saddened to hear of his death while we had traveled to the US this last time. As he had no children, the title should have passed to his next oldest brother. However, the next brother in line has been a member of the local Evangelical Church of Ghana in our village since its founding. Pressure from family and other traditional worshipers can be strong, especially for a man in his 60’s, expected to be the priest for his family and community. We have watched him stand firm in his faith time after time.
The priesthood has now passed to the next brother, and sacrifices continue at the Tiŋaana, but this story reminds me of the words of the Israeli prophet, Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” There are people all around us walking in darkness. People next door, in the next cubicle, and people in far away places worshipping false deities. No matter the location, the deity worshiped, or the darkness that shrouds, these people are searching for a light. As John said 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." And as Paul said in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “the time is short, this world in its present form is quickly passing away.” This world, in its present darkness is quickly passing away missing the true light that shines for it.
As we worship through this Christmas and New Year’s season and give thanks for all God has given us and is yet to give, let us remember that there are today a people walking in darkness, striving to overcome the corruption of the world. But God, being rich in love and mercy, has come to us in our darkness and has become the light of men to show us the way home.
Give thanks for people like the priest's brother, who have seen the light and stand firm in it, and pray for more strength for him in his stance. Pray for those who continue to walk in darkness, that they may see the light shining for them.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
- Isaiah 9