For most of us who have natural vision, it’s hard to imagine a state of real darkness. When we go out at night, unless we are far away from city lights, only the brightest stars are visible. There are places, however, in the country, where the full glory of the stars at night is evident. It is when we have experienced the darkest night that the coming of light is most appreciated. This is also true in the spiritual sense. Many people surround themselves with the glitter of the artificial light of earthly pleasures that will fade and disappear, so much so that they may not even recognize that they are actually walking in spiritual darkness. It makes sense for us to mark the birth of Christ at this time as the days start to grow longer, marking the beginnings of salvation, the light of God’s grace over the darkness of humanity’s sin.
During Advent, we heard Isaiah say that the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1). This “great light” is none other than the Christ child. And in one of the Christmas Gospels, the passage from Saint Luke, shepherds are the first people to hear about this birth. They’re told by an angel that this newborn child is the long-awaited savior who is the Messiah and Lord. It is fascinating that this good news is revealed first to shepherds and not to kings, princes and royal officials. Perhaps this is because the shepherds knew better than the powerful, rich and famous people that they needed a savior. For them, the Messiah was truly “long-awaited,” while the high and mighty may never have realized their need for any kind of salvation.
This is true for us today as well. We will not even notice the “great light” born to us unless we realize that we are wandering aimlessly in spiritual darkness. We will not find anything particularly joyful in the birth of Jesus unless we realize that we are in desperate need of His salvation. In many parts of our world today, people are still walking in darkness. For them, it may be the experience of exile, refugees from their homes and countries on account of war, violence and hatred. For some, their darkness may be the loneliness of broken relationships, bereavement, sickness or old age. Others may be lost in the darkness of pornography, sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drugs.
The artificial light of our world promises happiness through pleasure, wealth and possessions but, in reality, this is only light pollution preventing us from recognizing the true light shining in the dark. The light of God’s love, revealed to the poor shepherds in the sign of “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” is still to be found. As people accept Jesus into their hearts, the darkness of our lives dissipates and we begin to see the light again. We see the way we have to go, the way of compassion, the way of reconciliation, the way of communion with Jesus and with all those who share faith with us.
This Christmas, I invite you to enter in a deeper relationship with Jesus as your Savior. No one should be complacent and think that his or her relationship with Jesus is adequate. Could we ever possibly say that our love for Jesus is perfect and does not need to be deepened? Of course not! So, whatever your relationship with Jesus, our celebration of Christmas is an opportunity to grow more deeply in the love that Jesus shares with you. If we go to Mass only at Christmas and Easter time, Our Lord is longing for us to receive Him into our heart more frequently. In fact, Jesus wants us to come to Mass to be with Him every weekend (except if the corona virus hinders us). If you already go to Mass every Sunday, it’s still no time to rest on your laurels. Ask yourself: what more can I do to turn my life over to Christ completely as my Sovereign Master who rules over my heart, my thoughts and my desires? The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine. This Christmas let’s look around to see the light of God’s love reflected in the eyes of all those who share our faith. Encouraged by the example of so many “stars,” may we remember that our life is also a shining star for people around us. May they see the example of our faith, hope and love so that the light of God’s love may increase to become “a joy to be shared by the whole people.” May you and your family enjoy all the blessings that Christmas can bring us!