Winter brings about long shadows in this part of the world. The angle of the sun is much lower in the sky, and that also makes our days shorter. These shadows usually aren’t a big problem for us, but I must confess the shadow of my house annoys me in the early spring when my north-facing driveway is covered by it, and the south-facing driveways of my neighbors across the street are quickly being cleared of snow by the warmer sunlight.
About this time of year, we start to talk about shadows at church too. The Bible actually talks about shadows quite a bit. Some of those shadows are meant to be very comforting. Psalm 36:7 says, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” To be in God’s shadow means to be near to Him, and to be near to Him means to be the recipient of His precious, steadfast love, and the protection, provision, and care that brings.
However, shadows can also mean darkness, confusion, and uncertainty. Psalm 23 famously calls death a shadow. Matthew writes in Matthew 4:16 that Jesus is the fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah that declares that the coming of the Messiah will shine light into darkness and shadow.
Honestly, many days and weeks during this pandemic have felt like they are clouded by the shadows of darkness, confusion, and uncertainty. Part of what helps us through dark and lonely times is the hope that shadows are temporary. Eventually, a new day will dawn. A new and brighter season will come!
We are entering the Lenten season this month. On Ash Wednesday, February 17th, we will be confronted by the shadow of our own mortality, reminded that we are dust (and ashes), and to dust we will return. That truth initiates a season in the church that is marked by humility and repentance, longing for a new day to dawn. And that day will come on April 4th, when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, His victory over the shadows, even the shadows of death and the grave.
There’s one other use of shadows in the Bible. They “foreshadow” something. They are markers of what is to come. In Hebrews 8, we learn that Moses, the priestly office, the Old Testament sacrifices, and even the tabernacle, all “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” and that they all point to Christ, who obtained a ministry “much more excellent than the old.” In fact, the Old Testament is littered with shadows that point us to the coming of Jesus Christ, who brought that long-awaited dawning of a new day.
With all that in mind, I invite you to our Lenten services this year, beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17th. We are partnering with Grace Free Lutheran Church in Valley City, ND, to preach a series entitled, “Shadows of Christ in the Old Testament.” My prayer is that as we walk through this season of shadow, humility, and repentance, we will see Christ, who delivers great hope and assurance for dawn to come.
With you in the hope of Christ,
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