In a passage quoted by Nephi, Isaiah used the imagery of light to describe the birth of the Messiah:
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined….
For unto us a child is born (Isaiah 9:2, 6, 2 Nephi 19:2, 6).
In the land of Israel, the birth of the Savior coincided with the appearance of a new star. Matthew tells us that a group of wise men followed a star to the place where Jesus was living as a young child (Matthew 2:1-10).
A group of people on the American continent experienced a much more dramatic sign. As the prophet Samuel prophesied six years before the Savior’s birth:
There shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven (Helaman 14:3-7).
Six years later, to the amazement of the people, Samuel’s prophecy was fulfilled:
At the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came….
And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given….
And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word (3 Nephi 1:15, 19, 21).
The birth of the Savior was accompanied by light, and not just any light. Unusual light, shining in the middle of the night. Light when there should be darkness.
Why is this a fitting symbol? Because that is what Christ does for us. As Isaiah described, we have all walked in darkness. We have all lived or will all live in the “land of the shadow of death” at times. Our lives can seem very dark. We can be confused, discouraged, or fearful. But when the light of Christ flows into our lives, those emotions can be replaced by joy and confidence.
For the inhabitants of the American continent, the appearance of the “light of the world” (John 8:12) was marked by the arrival of miraculous heavenly objects which shone from the sky and filled the earth with light even though the people had seen sun set.
Today, I will be grateful for the light and hope that the Savior can bring into my life, even during my darkest times. I will remember that He is the light of the world and that, if I reach out to Him, He can fill me with His light, which will bring clarity, confidence, and comfort.