A Celebration of Light
Last Christmas Eve, I watched my son’s face, awash with delight as he ran up to a Christmas tree, the lights dancing and flashing around him, as voices joined in unison echoing off the walls and the dramatic ceiling, celebrating the birth of the Savior.
The entire week was so exciting to him. The windows of our neighborhood had been full of menorahs, warmly shining out into bitter, black nights. Then the brilliance of Christmas lights glimmering on a tree, surrounded by rich music, fascinated him all the more and seemed to wrap up a week filled with light.
As I watched the lights dancing on his face, I thought about how fascinating it is that in the darkest, coldest period of the year, light is celebrated joyfully and passionately.
I also considered the darkness it seems the world and so many people are facing; it seems to be everywhere, invading individuals, families and societies, destroying identities, cultures and homes, and leaving people with nothing. People are increasingly justifying the most oppressive and inhumane attitudes and actions. Many seem to be accepting darkness, embracing it even, because it’s easier than selflessly taking the risk to step right into the midst of it and fight with light.
I began to wonder whether it would be possible to raise him to be a light in the midst of the strength such darkness seems to wield.
In Christmas, we celebrate the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, born without a roof over His head, to a family and people with few rights. It was a time very similar to our own, a time of division and homelessness, loss and loneliness. It was a time in which many were despairing and questioning God-where is the promised Messiah? When will you provide relief? Are you even there? He was hope and light embodied, born in the midst of an oppressive census being administered by an occupying government, his younger years spent fleeing hatred.
It is with this context in mind that John begins his entire account of Jesus’ life by calling him the light that “shines in the darkness” and which “darkness has not overwhelmed” (John 1:5). In a time in which it seemed darkness was overwhelming everything, Jesus came as the light which darkness could not overwhelm. This is so significant that it is given first priority in John’s account. We are later given the responsibility to also shine as lights in a dark world, not hiding in fear or guarding our light, but sharing it out of the love and goodness that has been given us (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15-16).
Light is also an integral part of Hanukkah, otherwise called the Festival of Lights, in which the miracle and hope of light during a dark time for the Jewish people is remembered.
Light is one of the most powerful elements in the universe, and when it encounters darkness-such as in a sunrise, lightning, stars, or a simple candle illuminating a blackened room-it resonates and pierces with its rays, poignantly impressing itself on our memory.
During this season, we have a choice-to either allow darkness to have its way, perhaps out of concern for our own self-preservation, or to leave an unforgettable impression, following the way of a courageous, loving Savior, and shine by boldly doing selfless acts of goodness in a world so consumed with selfishness and hate.
Darkness will not have the last word, ultimately. Even now, though, I choose to bear light in a world so lacking it.