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.
In a narrow canyon in Norway, a little village didn't get a whole lot of sunlight. But one day that changed. "Those who lived in a land of deep darkness" were brought into the light. It changed their lives.
Can you imagine what it is like to go without sunshine for half a year? As we start into the winter season, one day of sunshine is a welcome relief from the dreary cloudy, cold, and snowy days.
In the mountainous interior of a Norwegian lies a remote village of Rjukan, west of Oslo. Rjukan is situated at the bottom of a narrow river valley, hedged by steep mountain slopes.
There never would have been a village in that shadowed place at all, were it not for the river. In the early 20th century, an industrialist named Samuel Eyde was seeking cheap hydroelectric power for a new fertilizer plant. Rjukan's location suited his needs exactly.
Eyde's factory offered plenty of employment, but at a certain human cost. The steep mountain walls made Rjukan a gloomy place. During the long Norwegian winters, when the sun barely rises over the horizon, the people of Rjukan live in perpetual twilight.
The effects on the human spirit were predictable. Rjukan was a dark, depressing place to live. Eyde gamely tried to make things better, constructing workers' houses as high up the mountain slopes as possible. Eyde even constructed a cable-car, so his workers and their families could make occasional forays upwards, into the sun.
The idea of reflecting sunlight into the valley with mirrors was first floated by one of Eyde's bookkeepers in 1913. It was merely a dream at the time, but a century later, technology made it a reality.
In 2013, at a cost of nearly a million dollars, three immense mirrors were constructed atop the surrounding peaks. Carefully situated to catch the maximum amount of sunlight, their angle adjusted throughout the day by solar-powered electric motors, Rjukan's mirror array now reflects winter sunlight down into the valley. The change in the quality of life has been dramatic.The citizens of Rjukan once walked in darkness. Now — thanks to the high-tech wizardry of their mountaintop mirrors — they see a great light.
The prophet Isaiah never knew a Norwegian winter, but he didn't have to. Anyone who's ever lived through a dark night can appreciate the cheering properties of light. Looking hopefully to the birth of a messiah — the new king Hezekiah, who would rule over his people with justice and kindness — the prophet compares this good news to the return of the sun.
We now wait for the Son of God, love's true light this Advent Season as we focus on the beloved song, Silent Night, to help us discover God's love and light in and around us.