What 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!
Pastor Larry