Does Christmas Mean for You Now?
Long, long ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote,
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived
in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).
He was writing to a people held captive by a terrible enemy, to a people
who had absolutely no reason to hope that anything would turn out well
for them, to a people who lost everything good and kind and lovely in life.
It truly was a dark time.
The events of September 11th brought a
significant amount of darkness into our world, our time. Those who
had a general belief that people were generally good and kind were suddenly
confronted with the reality of evil that citizens in the rest of the world
often experienced on a daily basis. Our cultural isolation ended,
and we found ourselves in the darkness with the rest of the world.
In reality, of course, we were already
in darkness before that. The real enemies - the gods of self, wealth,
and power, the tyrants of sin and death - were shredding our lives from
almost the very beginning of creation. Only now, for
the first time for many in our country,
the bubble of our cultural facade has been popped and the reality of the
rest of the world has invaded our cozy existence. This experience has been
compared to the "loss of innocence" America
felt when JFK and Martin Luther King,
Jr. were shot. Darkness has always been present, and it has always
been our reality. It's just that sometimes we try to ignore it, insulate
ourselves from it, or simply act as though it weren't there.
To really understand and experience Christmas
in the fullest sense, one must be willing to honestly look at the darkness
in our lives. It's frightening, and we'd just as soon not, but we
must. The temptation is always to behave as if it isn't there, but
there is a terrible cost to living this way. We waste so much time
and energy running from it in terror. The darkness that we find in
difficult relationships, in mistakes made, in failures (and repeated failures)
and in the profound self-centerdness of our humanity causes us to recoil,
to avoid, and to deaden the pain at all costs.
So what does this have to do with Christmas?
It gets to the very heart of it! We don't realize that in our fearsome
flight from darkness we are also fleeing the light and miss the very reason
that Jesus came. He brought forgiveness and hope. He brought
love and compassion. He brought to our world the truth of God's love
and compassion for humanity, and as we receive these gifts we are then
able to share them with others. If we go through life avoiding the
darkness, the hard things, they only get worse, and we miss amazing things
like relationships restored, lives redirected, love given and received.
This is what Christmas means.
What does it mean for you? If you
want it to really mean something, you'll have to change. Go beyond
the "normal" celebrations of the holiday - the Christmas tunes and shopping
frenzies and parties and meaningless holiday noise. You have to receive
the gift of Christ as God intended, and then find ways to share that gift.
Face the darkness in your life, but face it with God's light of forgiveness.
Face the darkness in the world by entering into someone else's problems
or needs, but face them satisfied that God has cared for you. Find
ways to be the presence of Christ in other's lives, but only as he has
made himself known to you.
Blessings and Peace!