The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. [Isaiah 9:2]
In Isaiah's poetic, prophetic vision, he sees Israel in Babylon as a people who are in perpetual night. Without moon or stars to guide, they have lived in deep darkness.
And Isaiah is bringing them hope. A light is shining on them. There is promise for a new day.
For Isaiah, it is the promise of a new child born, a child who will grow into a mantle of authority, not a warrior king but a Prince of Peace.
Centuries later, Christians began to understand Jesus is the one Isaiah was talking about. Whatever Isaiah was speaking of in his time (and he most certainly was speaking of something in his time---prophetic speech is almost always addressing a crisis immediately at hand), the new sect known as Christianity heard Isaiah's words and agreed, "That's our Jesus."
It is a hope and promise that has been grasped at in many times, places, circumstances. There are so many situations in the world right now, today, wherein we could reasonably read Isaiah's words and reply, "How long, oh God? How long?"
We Christians, at our best, understand that the Prince of Peace that we celebrate in these Twelve Days, is not a monarch of imposed dominion. This is not the Pax Romana, held in place by military might and public crucifixions. This is the Prince of Peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace of one who can hang on a cross and pray for the one holding the hammer that nailed you there.
I'm going to confess that I'm about to say something that in certain contexts trivializes the deep suffering of people in bloody war zones, but it also addresses the anguish that LGBT people who live in otherwise normal, quiet situations---with the exception that if they were out to family or church or workplace, their life could be turned upside down.
It is not a place full of light. It is not a situation of peace.
And yet, just very recently, I counseled a young person who wanted desperately to stop hiding and come out to their parents, to live in that dark place for a while longer. They had expressed uncertainty about how their parents would receive the news, that the parents were not generally supportive of LGBT concerns. I counseled to remain closeted until they knew they could afford their own living arrangements, that they could support themselves, because parents do still put kids on the street for coming out and street life can be another kind of darkness to endure.
I hope I counseled well. I hope the time this young person still needs to remain closeted will not do permanent damage to heart, soul, or mind. I hope that when they do come out, the parents will prove the worry was for nothing. Understanding the freedom I felt when I came out---and all the ways that freedom has cost me---I also understand that freedom sometimes must be delayed. I hope this young person gets that and is able to take action that keeps her well.
LGBT Christians, I think, hear the words of Isaiah in some particular ways. We receive the promise and the hope that shows up unexpectedly---and is still in the future. Many of us have lived in great darkness. Many of us have known a great light.
Let us remember, Beloved Children, that we will walk out of darkness, we will experience the light. Whatever internal warring we might experience, let us remember it will not always be that way.
Let us remember we have the promised Prince of Peace.