“In the beginning was the Word…what has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:1-4)
Strings of coloured lights draped around trees, icicles of lights on eaves, lighted plastic figurines on the lawn, candles flickering in wreaths or on mantles; light is definitely a part of our Christmas celebrations. In fact, light is one of the central themes of Christmas. Light coming into the darkness. Light that drives away the shadow. Light that makes plain those things that were hidden.
One of the most common fears in childhood is to be afraid of the dark. And with good reason. In the dark ordinary things can seem monstrous. One never knows for certain what might be lying in the shadows. The dark is scary.
The world is a dark place. And at times it only seems to get darker. This is not new. The world has always been a dark place, there have always been shadows looming. But throughout all the darkness, even in the darkest of times, people have found hope. Strange thing about that, even when they have every reason to despair, people find hope. People find hope as God is once again revealed to be Emmanuel, God-With-Us.
That is what Christmas is all about. In fact it is a large part of what Christianity is all about, that recognition that God is with us, even if it is in surprising and unexpected ways and places. To a people suffering under the oppression of Roman Legions God came as a peasant child to a no-name family. In a world where mighty armies were the way to go God spoke out in the voice of a single man, calling people to a new way of living together. And after his execution people came to know that even death could not contain this man. No matter how hard they tried, people could not extinguish the light he brought to the world.
Today it is very easy to count the shadows looming at the door. It is very easy to give in to the fear of those shadows. In fact the world may well get darker yet. It may be that we have to go deeper into the shadows of uncertainty before we find a new path, the path God wants us to find, that will once again be brightly lit. But take heart. No matter how dark it may seem at any one time, there is always light. There is always light.
The ancients celebrated the winter solstice by praying that the sun would return. On the shortest day, the darkest time of year, they celebrated the coming back of heat and light. We continue to hold that celebration. At Christmas we celebrate the coming, again and again, in surprising ways, of Light. The light that can not be put out. As John says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5). And the darkness never will overcome it. Thanks be to God for light in our darkness.