Light of the World Overcomes Darkness

‘I don’t like this time of the year,” my Dad used to say. “It’s dark when I leave the house for work, and it’s dark when I get back home.”

This is indeed the time of the calendar when darkness has the upper hand. Every day there are a few less moments of light; every day the sun sinks a bit lower.

No wonder the ancient people got scared about this time every year: will the sun come back? Will light return? Or will the night win?

Yes, nature right now is in a cosmic battle, between light and darkness. In fact, on December 21, the sun is at its lowest; it’s the shortest day of the year; we wonder if darkness has finally triumphed?

Ah, but then comes December 22, and, guess what? There are a few more moments of brightness! The sun starts its journey back up! It’s as if the sun is reborn!

Can you see what I’m getting at? No wonder the Church decided centuries ago that the birth of the Son should be celebrated right after the rebirth of the sun!

He whose birth was announced by the dazzle of a star came to be the “light of the world!”

As we will hear Isaiah bellow out at the Eucharist on Christmas, at midnight, when the earth is in darkness, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone!”

Our Jewish neighbors recognized this invitation from nature long before we did, as they begin their annual Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, as we anticipate Christmas.

Just as nature tells us annually that the sun trumps darkness, so does “supernature” teach us that the only-begotten Son of God, true God from true God, light from light, is victorious over the darkness of sin, selfishness, Satan, and death itself.

For this baby will go from the wood of the manger to the lumber of the cross. On that afternoon on the day we strangely call “Good,” midday became as bleak as midnight, as “darkness covered the earth,” and even the sun covered its face in shame.

But the following Sunday morning, as the sun came up to announce that the night was over, the Son rose!

Pardon me for being the party-pooper in this season of rightful celebrations, smiles, and joy…but…

—have you noticed? —

…there’s a lot of darkness, out there.

There’s a struggle going on between light and darkness, not only in the sky, but down here.

• within our own hearts, there’s a battle between our dark side of sin, selfishness, and pride, and our radiant side of grace, love, and goodness.

• in our own lives, we see causes for gloom in sickness, struggle, tension, heartache, worry;

• in the world, it seems as if the forces of gloom are in the ascendancy, as we shake our head at violence, poverty, hatred, sorrow, crime, and immorality;

• even in the Church we cherish we see scandal, sin, crime, bad news, tempting us to wonder if Jesus is keeping his promise “to be with us all days.”

Ask no more! December 21st does not have the last word! December 25th does! Light the candles! Illuminate the trees! Belt out “Alleluia” with Handel! Gaze upon the menorah! See the star over the manger! Acclaim the Son as the light of the world! Let Him banish the gloom and darkness that threatens to doom us!

A blessed Christmas!