A Light Shines in Darkness
Even on the clearest and brightest of days, December begs for light. Only with winter's solstice does light creep in, shortening the month's darkness with the promise of more illuminated hours. >
How fitting that Christmas and often Hanukkah - both seasons of light - fall within a light-starved month.
The biblical witness declares that in the beginning, light was called into existence first. >Its presence defined day and night, seed time and harvest.
In the Hebrew Bible, light finds its way through Israel's history in the voices of its prophets and in the comforting words of its Psalms. >Light was always needed. >Light was always welcomed.
In the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, found only in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, light plays a prominent role. >Luke recalls the story of the shepherds, startled by an angel, then surrounded by "the glory of the Lord" when they heard the news of Jesus' birth. Matthew's readers journey with the Magi to Bethlehem, guided by the light of a miraculous, mysterious star.
Although John, the fourth evangelist, offers no narrative of Christ's birth, his record is saturated with references to light. >
"The light shines in darkness," he boldly asserts in the opening verses, "but the darkness does not overcome it."
As one who embraces the story of the infant of Bethlehem, I believe >John's words. >Yet there are times, I confess, when I wonder if the darkness hasn't won out. I ponder the question when learning of the consequences of poor choices or bad luck that sends people, their families, and their lives spiraling out of control. >
When a resolution to conflict, personal or global, appears to be hopeless, with no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I wonder, has the light been extinguished?
The troubling thought occurs again, when I hear of a young life - a child, a spouse, a parent - that ends slowly and painfully or suddenly and tragically.
I felt it most recently hearing the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Where in all of this, I wondered, is there any light?
But if I wait and make my way through those questions and thoughts, I find that glimmers of light, shards of illumination, can be found even in the darkest of situations.
Good and gracious people rally around others and their hopeless situations. Support is found. Peace becomes a reality. >A way is provided. >Justice prevails. >Light shines in darkness.
And darkness, it seems, often brings out the best in people. Points of light can be found all around us, especially this time of year. >
Because of the generosity of many in our community, children who might otherwise find nothing under their tree will awaken to gifts on Christmas morning. >Meals will be served to those who could only dream of a holiday feast. >And Christmas will be welcomed, perhaps for the first time ever, in a place someone can call home.
Light shines in darkness. >
Those cumulative points of light - in our places of work, in our communities of faith, in the schools we attend, in the homes where we live - elicit hope. And hope, I firmly believe, is an authentic stance. >
Families can make amends. >Forgiveness can be realized. >Good choices can be made. Courage can be found. Light can shine in darkness.
My children sometimes point out that ours is one of the few houses in the neighborhood without outdoor lights. I have no aversion to those displays, I explain, just the work involved and the electric bill down the road. But perhaps I need to reconsider. >
After the tragic deaths in Newtown, 20 of them precious children, Monsignor Robert Weiss, of Rose of Lima Catholic Church, was asked whether the residents of that community should turn off their Christmas lights. >
The wise priest calmly responded, "No." >He knows enough about grief and loss to know that the hurting folks in Newtown, like so many of us, need those visible reminders that light continues to dispel darkness.
This holiday season and in the coming year, may you find glimpses of light, for you and for those whom you love. >As you watch and as you wait, I hope your Christmas will be the merriest ever. >Even more, I pray it will be especially bright.
Tom Allen is minister of education at First Baptist Church, Southern Pines and a frequent contributor to PineStraw magazine. >You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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