Experiencing the Light of Christmas
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but we should seek to maintain a spirit of gratitude. You might have noticed that once again this year, trees, wreaths, lights, and decorations started going up very early as if many have been clamoring, “Bring on Christmas! We need it now!” 2021 has been another challenging year.
This past Sunday began the season of Advent, which is the four-week journey to prepare for the birth of Christ. I love the Christmas season because we can feel a sense of hope in the air that is simply not present throughout the rest of the year. There is something magical about the spirit of Christmas that lifts our hearts and causes all of us to change the way that we see the world, at least for a little while.
Christmas is a joyful and happy time for many. Children are excited. Music is on the radio. Holiday parties are fun. Yet at the same time, it can be a painful and lonely time for others. Christmas causes us to take trips down memory lane, and remember the Christmases of years ago when we were growing up; when the children were young. Perhaps when a spouse was still living; when the world seemed much simpler, calmer, kinder, less hostile and angry.
The prophet Isaiah writes: “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….For a child has been born to us. A son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Eighth century Jerusalem (BCE) was anything but a peaceful kingdom. The constant reality of war, oppression, invasion, exploitation, and revolt illustrate the prophetic courage and substance of Isaiah’s prophecy. Twenty-eight hundred years later, Isaiah still describes a peaceful kingdom for which we all long but seldom experience. If we’re honest, we know that we still walk in darkness in many ways.
We’ve experienced the darkness of this pandemic with its death and grief. The darkness of depression and anxiety. The darkness of homelessness and poverty. The darkness of loneliness and addiction. The darkness of fear and emptiness. The darkness of illness and cancer. The darkness of division and polarization. The darkness of broken relationships and divorce. The darkness of rejection and feelings of inadequacy. Our world still has a lot of darkness, which is why we all need the light and gifts of Christmas. John eloquently writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light that enlivens every person was coming into the world.”
The light of Christmas casts out the darkness of materialism, greed, and selfishness that often dominates our world, and it replaces it with the spiritual values of love, compassion, and generosity. It casts out the darkness of ignorance and doubt, and replaces it with understanding and hope. The light of Christmas casts out the darkness of hatred as seen in war, racism, and prejudice, and it replaces such evils with peace on earth, goodwill to all people. It casts out the darkness of sorrow and despair, and it replaces it with peace, joy, and hope. Advent and Christmas remind us that in the end, the darkness doesn’t win. Love wins, and the light will always shine through. May it be so this Christmas season.
August 11, 2022
July 29, 2022