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 (NRSV)
This is one of my favorite Bible verses because it signifies the beginning of the Advent season. I remember reading it at the beginning of Advent with my family as we gathered around the Advent wreath and lit a new candle each week.
But today is also World AIDS Day. We remember that there are over 30 million infected with the HIV virus, and untold numbers more affected by this disease that knows no boundaries, whether racial, class, geographic, religion, sexual orientation, or age. This disease affects us all, whether we know it or not.
As I lived and worked in Kenya, I worked to educate and fight against the stigma of the disease. This stigma keeps people from communicating and makes it ever more difficult to protect loved ones from the dangers associated with infection. As we worked to promote open conversation and self-awareness of HIV/AIDS we came across many who still did not want to admit that this disease even existed.
Too often we deny what we fear.
What is necessary is to shine the light of hope of treatment and prevention in the midst of the darkness of the fear of this disease. It will take an openness and honesty that many have avoided. But it will be ever more valuable when we start to stem the tide of desperation and fear into which we are entrenched.
And that Light will expose our fears, and let us know just how deep is the darkness in which we have been living.