AM Psalm 61, 62; PM Psalm 112, 115
Isa. 11:1-9; Rev. 20:1-10; John 5:30-47
It was cold and cloudy on the park at the top of South Mountain, and our host kept saying he wished that the sun would come out so that we could enjoy our trip more. Still, the view of the city was magnificent from up there, and the rapid development of the place was evident everywhere. Western China is no longer the underdeveloped, out-of-the way place it once was, at least not in the cities. Cranes and skyscrapers dominate the skyline in every direction, and shiny new buildings seem to appear out of nowhere. But we didn’t enjoy the view for long, as we all wanted to get down the mountain and find a place to get warm.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
As we approached the temple at the bottom of the mountain, the sun came out, warming our windblown faces and hands. But the light of the sun couldn’t mask the darkness around me. People stood in front of the temple, burning incense and paper “money” and little bundles of food in prayers to the dead, to false gods, to some combination of the two. The remains of their offerings littered the ground. Daoist priests sat in dark robes at low tables, telling the fortunes of successful looking young Chinese with searching eyes. Beggars sat on steps hoping to benefit from the temple-goers good deeds. The sun was bright by then, but the darkness surrounded us.
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
We made our way to a café to get some hot chocolate, a treat not available here ten years ago but easy enough to find thanks to economic development and the arrival of many foreigners. This particular café supports development work among Tibetans, selling handcrafts made by women in rural parts of the province, women who offer part of their meager income to Buddhist monks in hopes of gaining favor. I’ve been to one of those monasteries. I’ve not found a darker place since.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
On our way back, our bus passed a mosque, one of the biggest in China. In just a few days, that mosque would be the site of a huge yearly sacrifice, where every family who can afford it slaughters a cow or sheep to pay for their guilt. The Muslims here follow the rules well, and it leads to blood… blood and darkness.
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
So much death and fear of death and darkness and lostness prevail in this place. Not even the shiny new high rises or glitzy department stores can hide it. But He is here, too, the Dayspring, the one who came as a baby and died as a man and rose as a new creation. He is here in the hearts of those who love Him, foreign and local. He longs to bring light to the temple, the monastery, the mosque. He is the Light to disperse this darkness, and I wait for the day when all of the people here can sing with us:
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!