Rev. Brian W. Johnson, Pastor
When I think of Christmas, I think of light. I think of sitting in front of the Christmas tree, with the house lights turned off, with only the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree giving light to the room. I think of driving by houses and shopping centers that are festooned in electric lights, making the night shine a little brighter. I think of the little Christmas centerpiece that sits on my mother’s kitchen table every December – full of candles and nutcrackers and camels and wisemen – and how the lights of that centerpiece play a central role in many of my childhood Christmas memories. I think of standing in the dark on Christmas Eve, holding candles at the end of worship, and singing “Silent Night” together with my church.
All of those memories are about light. But, notice that those memories are also about darkness. We notice the light precisely because of how dark it is. After all, this is the darkest season of the year (sunset on Christmas Eve is before 5 PM!), which is part of what makes all the lights so stunning – and important. In a season of darkness, our Christmas lights are a source of hope and comfort.
The story of Christmas is a story that’s about light – God’s light. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, in one of the passages we will read on Christmas Eve, says that “the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the True Light who has entered into our world to light up our darkness.
But, because Christmas is a story of God’s light, that means that Advent – this season leading up to Christmas – is a time when we are honest about our world’s darkness. During Advent, we take time to pay attention to the parts of our world that need more of the light of God’s love. During Advent, we remember the dark parts of our world – and of our lives – and pray for God to come light them up with hope and love. If you feel overwhelmed by darkness, Advent is a time for facing down your darkness and praying for God’s light to drive it away. During Advent, we prepare ourselves for Christmas by remembering to pray “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” – praying for Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, to enter into our world and light up all its dark places. Part of how we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus is by being honest about why we need him. Jesus is the Light of the World, and his birth is Good News precisely because our world is so often so full of so much darkness.
And, here’s the Good News – the world’s darkness doesn’t get the final word. The story of Christmas is a story that tells us that God’s light always wins. Darkness does not get the final say on our story. The final say belongs to God – and God says that light will shine, that darkness will be overcome, that hope is victorious! As it’s put in the Gospel of John, that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.” The darkness of sin, death, despair, violence, and hatred do not get the final word. The light of God’s love, the light of life, shines strong, and cannot be overcome.
So, as we move towards Christmas and you see lights shining in the darkness, I hope that they will remind you of the Light of the World, who shines in even the darkest moments. I hope that all those little lights – including the candles we will light on Christmas Eve – are a reminder that even the deepest darkness cannot defeat the light of Jesus Christ. Over the next few weeks, may you be on the lookout for signs of light – and when you see them, may you be reminded that God is with us, and that God’s love always wins, no matter what.