Sure is dark out there, isn’t it? I guess that is to be expected here in the Northern Hemisphere since we just passed the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Still, I admit that I’ve been a little surprised with just how dark it has been the past little while. Maybe it’s because one of the headlights on my car burnt out, or just the routes that I’ve been taking haven’t been all that well lit up, because, you know, driving on main roads or near the malls this time of year would be traffical suicide. And I know we have this weird Daylight saving thing that makes the night come even earlier than we’re used to from the nice warm summer months that seem to be but a distant memory. But hey, at least there’s no snow on the ground, right? No, instead of the cold, slippery, light-reflecting, night-brightening snow on the roads that makes driving treacherous, we have the torrential rains that seem to suck light into this deep black abyss of darkness that makes driving treacherous.
It’s just dark.
And in the middle of it all, we have today, Christmas Eve, the day (or should I say evening) before Christmas, this arbitrary date of December 24th that we use to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And I say arbitrary date because really, we have no idea when Jesus was actually born. We can try to make educated guesses given star patterns and things like that, but I can tell you that it is most certainly not in December. Most scholars deduce that the actual day should have been around August. August. Wouldn’t that be nice to celebrate Christmas in the summer like how they do it every year in Australia? Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry congested traffic caused by congestion and weather on the way to our many Christmas parties and engagements? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to carry our shopping bags to the car and then to the house without needing an umbrella or flashlight or something? But no, we get Christmas in December, in the bleak midwinter, when it is oh oh oh so dark.
I mean think about it, isn’t weird that the powers that be could have chosen any day they wanted for Christmas, that they’d choose the time of the year, at least for the Northern Hemisphere, when it’s so dark? Isn’t it weird that they’d chose a time of year when the weather outside can be so frightful? Isn’t it weird that they decided on a time of year when the roads would be most treacherous? It’s like the time of year that we’d rather stay at home, cuddled up by the fire, like either an actual one or one they show on TV. It’s the time of year that we want to sleep in, relax, and just chill with friends or family. It’s the time of year that we’d rather not have to be driving around buying stuff, doing stuff, and exchanging the stuff we didn’t want. It just doesn’t seem to be a good time for a big thing like Christmas, because it is just too dark out there.
But, in the darkness there is a light. In the darkness of this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere we know that the days from now on get longer and longer. So there is hope in that promise that even in the darkest darks, things will get brighter.
And what a promise that is.
Because it isn’t just dark in our wet wintery climate here in the Lower Mainland, is it? But the world in general seems dark as well. Well, maybe not in Australia where they’re in full summer mode and probably soaking up some rays over… down… under… there. But you know what I mean, the world is just dark. With the corruption we hear about, the violence, the change in climate and those who don’t believe it, the racism, the sexism, the plethora of other “ism’s” that plague our society, we’re not exactly in the best shape in history here.
The world is dark.
And not just our world or the climate we have, but sometimes even our lives seem dark. Maybe not our lives in this room specifically, but lives in general. I’m talking about those who are affected by the darkness of the world. Those who suffer from brokenness and despair. Those who have seen too much hurt and pain, and would just rather not try anymore because there seems to be no point; or not have faith because there doesn’t seem to anything to put faith in; or completely give up on hope because hope just seems lost.
Our lives can be dark.
This darkness isn’t contained in just our lives, this point in history, or even this time of year in our hemisphere. Rather, it travels and gets around. This darkness is prevalent and invasive. This darkness has been present throughout time and civilizations and cultures and perhaps even before time began. For our bibles tell us that in the beginning there was darkness that covered all that was created. But then… there was light. And try as it may, that darkness could not overcome it.
And that is exactly the point. I mean that is the point of Christmas, that is why we celebrate it when we do, that is why we celebrate it at all, in that in Christmas, we are reminded of a light coming into the world when the world seemed to be at its darkest, we are reminded of a promise that we are saved from out of the darkness and brought into life, we are reminded through the birth of an illegitimate child to poor commoner parents that even in the darkest of times, there is a love that shines through.
As it was in the beginning, light entered into the world. As it was on that night in that manger in that barn, light came in. As it does now in our lives that sometimes seem so dark, light shines through, piercing through the darkness with a love that God has for us through Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, whose words we revere, and in whom we put our hope and faith.
So this is a great time of the year to celebrate Christmas (sorry, Australia), in that all around us, it is quite literally dark. All around us, we see the darkness in life, in the world, and in our communities. But as Christmas comes, we see the darkness pulling away, we see the light prevailing, we see Jesus more clearly in our midst, through grace, through mercy, through the promise of hope that the light of Christ, the light of love, the light that we are reminded of with this very large number of candles throughout this space, is the light that shines in our hearts, through our relationships, and the light that the darkness cannot overcome.
This Christmas, may our faith remain in this light, as it serves as a beacon of hope of a better world, saved and restored by grace and love. Thanks be to God. Amen.