Satan, spewing out spite and vengeance, had an agenda.
I don't know for sure, but I kind of think he told himself...
I will take this world that God loves--this glorious creation, his precious people--and cover it with darkness.
I'm going to smear it with the grime of sin.
I'm going to make it so ugly, so disgusting, so vile, that God won't even look at it.
He won't come down to walk any more.
He won't be tempted to have a relationship with these people.
He won't step down into the muck and mire and filth of it all.
Because darkness and light have no business with each other.
Satan, from the very beginning, misunderstood. Maybe he thought it would all be over for people after the first sin. I don't think he calculated on God continuing to have a relationship with His people. In amazement I'm sure he watched and waited...
Surely after Cain...
Surely after Babel...
Surely in the days of Noah...
Surely after Sodom and Gomorrah...
Surely after the golden calf...
Surely after the captivity...
Surely, surely, surely...
But God never gave up. Amazingly, the world never got too dirty for God to come walking, come loving, come shining.
The light comes shining in the darkness, and Satan still doesn't understand it.
I try to make sense of it. God has had to turn my mind upside down to grasp the truth of His love for us.
In September, I walked into the darkness. I walked into the midst of Satan destroying, devaluing, devouring.
I walked into a notorious red light district in India.
The boundaries to this district are well known. Respectable people don't cross over the line. To me, to an outsider, the buildings look the same. The people look the same. Same trash on the streets. Same mangy dogs scurrying around. Same terrifying tangle of motorcycles and tiny cars. Same awful din and same hazy, smoggy air to breathe.
But it's different there.
You feel it in front of the temple where the prostitutes come to make offerings before starting work each night.
You feel it in the skeletal hand and see it in the haunting eyes of a child devoured by AIDS.
You're embraced by it--by the arms of a mother draped in black, still mourning the child she lost.
There's an emptiness. Pots sit empty waiting by the well for the hour when water is turned on. Empty eyes, empty bellies, empty pockets.
The houses are like a maze. Low roofs jut down over narrow, litter filled alleyways. Each 10 x 10 home has a number so the pimps can keep up with their property.
Worse are the stories...
Women given by their parents as temple prostitutes--the devsdas--at the age of 12 and 13. By 19 they are too old to be beautiful and are sold off into slums like this one.
Women, bound as slaves, who make $1.00 per time to sell their bodies--women who may be able to keep $0.50 to support their families.
Women ravaged by AIDS who are forced to continue working.
Numbers like 40% living with HIV.
Children set out in the streets at night or fed sleeping pills and put under beds so as to keep the customers happy.
Orphans counted as so dirty they can't even live inside the city limits--restricted from school and even burial in the cemetery.
Children who have never seen a flower growing with their own eyes--who have never left the district.
This is darkness. This is the last place on earth I expected to see Jesus. Satan has been hard at work--screaming over hearts "Too dirty...too dirty...too dirty."
But remember--the darkness has never understood the light.
I saw Jesus in the red light district.
I saw hope, joy, and peace. I saw faith. I saw beauty.
I saw God's treasure--children that delight His heart.
These people, living in the worst squalor, the worst despair I have ever seen--they have seen a great light.
Because of one man's vision, passion, and love, the message of Jesus has been preached to these people.
It is the message of Christ, born not in a palace but in a stable. The story of Jesus who could never live down the question "Who's your daddy?" The story of Jesus who was a friend of prostitutes, who touched the lepers, who went out of His way to reach the unreachable, touch the untouchable.
I can only imagine that if Jesus had been walking by the red light district, his disciples would have been quick to say, "You can't go in there, Jesus. It's too dirty. Do you know what those women do? Do you know what those men do? Do you know what disease those children have?" And I can imagine the Jesus of scripture wading into the middle of it all anyway, completely baffling the darkness.
Do we really think that God doesn't know about these places? About what happens there? Because if we answer no, then we don't really understand Him at all.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.
Children of light, have you understood it? Light shines most brightly in the darkest places. While Satan is still scratching His head trying to figure out what Jesus is doing in the red light district, women and children are being freed from worse than physical bondage. The ones Satan counted as too dirty to be noticed by God are being won--are finding their true worth and value in Christ. And if something about Jesus reaching out to these prostitutes and AIDS orphans offends you, then I'm pretty sure you don't understand the light at all.
If you're looking for light this Christmas--if you're looking for Jesus--you're not going to find Him among the fluorescent lights, among the tinsel and gift wrap. You're not going to find Him in the shopping malls. All you will find there is the tantalizing scent of a satisfaction that can never satisfy--that empty feeling when all the presents are unwrapped and the sink is full of dirty dishes and all you've worked for is done.
If you truly want to encounter Jesus this Christmas, go where He always is. Go to the darkness. Go to the suffering. Go to the outcast, to the broken, to the hopeless. See the light of Jesus burning bright in their eyes.
The light is still shining in the darkness, and you can find Him there.