Light Shining in Darkness
Focus passage for contemplation: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John1:3-5)
Here we are, heading once more into that time of year where the darkness (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) has increased to its greatest degree. It can be a time of cacophony for many, heralded by that hideous title assigned to the day after Thanksgiving - “Black Friday”. Those very words prime the mind with a sort of hypnosis to anticipate darkness. Christ-less. Commercial. Gloomy. Wintery. Pressured. Stressed. Complicated. It is like that for many people. It is a very, very dark time of year for many. It is black indeed in the spiritual sense wherever the Light of the world has not yet gained ascendency in human hearts.
Additionally there are people in some Christian circles or sects who condemn their spiritual brothers and sisters for observing Christmas. To me this demonization by well intentioned spiritual grinches only adds to the darkness. Yet the point of this writing is not to condemn them, or to refute or argue the usual points that come up on this, concerning the allegedly Pagan nature of the holiday, or whether Jesus actually was born on December 25, and so forth.
So let’s just skip that fracas and head in another direction with it, dear reader. A fresh perspective, if you will. This is just my take on it. See if it might work for you. No obligations.
This idea of the light shining into darkness is exactly why I choose to observe the holidays. I am under absolutely no obligation to do so. There is no church telling me that I am obligated to celebrate Christmas, nor one telling me I’m obligated not to. My salvation - wrought entirely by Christ Jesus - does not depend on the observance of any holiday or feast - Jewish, Christian, or Pagan! Let’s get that straight.
On the secular side, I am also a person who frankly hates shopping and all the stress involved with this time of year in which many participate. So there is no secular pressure to conform to any sort of “shop till you drop mode.” In fact I am inclined to truly marginalize that entire end of it. I seldom send greeting cards. Sometimes I do not put up a tree or decorate. I refuse to be pressured by any religious, commercial, or traditional force to participate according to anyone else’s agenda. These things tend to spoil the focus.
For me this time of year features a spectacular witness in the cosmos itself that proclaims what our focus passage is about. For at this darkest time, the cycles of nature itself begin to “turn around” shortly after the winter solstice. There will be, in other words, ever increasing daylight which will begin to overwhelm the darkness! Darkness decreases. Light increases. Nights are shorter. Days grow longer. And if that is not a “symbolic” cosmic proclamation of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about, I don’t know what is!
So I quietly, contemplatively, thoughtfully, gratefully, and prayerfully observe the holidays in my own way.
I ponder quietly within a cozy living room beside a crackling fire, as I gaze out on the wintery landscape and hear the “carols” of the wind as it sings. I consider how the tiny flame of the infant Jesus enters an entirely benighted world and begins to transform it - one soul at a time. He comes so quietly and softly, this light that overcomes the darkness! The fire of His Light warms hearts and enlightens minds. So small and quiet is His arrival against a darkness so vast that it is nearly undetectable… yet ever, ever, ever encroaching upon and inevitably overcoming it!
Then I am reminded of the violet expanse of an endless sky being torn apart by angelic light and song over the heads of trembling shepherds. Majestic and frightening visages appear, yet they speak comforting words, “Fear not.” They sing, glorifying God in the highest. They announce the peace of God and His good will coming into the world to bring salvation through the Light of His Christ to the benighted hearts of all mankind. They let the shepherds, the humble who faithfully tend the flocks, know where they can find the holy child.
What wondrous love it this?
Truly, the heavens declare the glory of God at this time of year, as the tipping point comes, and darkness surrenders to the Light which it can never overcome. What better time to let the anticipation of Messiah and the celebration of His first coming begin, as we ready our hearts for His return?
O come, O come, Emmanuel!