When I was a boy, our family went through broad stages of development in our Christmas decorations. We ran a bit behind current trends, perhaps, but there was movement. We evolved from a white plastic tree, to aluminum, and eventually to a real live silver tip fir (my mother’s favorite); we went from “color wheels” (floodlights with rotating four-colored plastic disks) to actual strands of colored lights (the big kind that would set your tree on fire if you weren’t careful).
But through it all, there were always the glass ornaments: shiny, oh-so-fragile globes that reflected back their own distorted little worlds. Red ones mostly, but also green, gold. We learned to handle them carefully.
As I grew–especially in my more pensive teenage years–there was something about them that spoke to me of the strange beauty of the Christmas season. Their glory was a fragile one, an illusion of substance that was easily shattered.
So it goes. December is not a happy time for everyone. Some do not have the means to celebrate in the way consumer culture demands. Some have the means, but struggle to keep their balance as they’re buffeted by personal and family troubles. Christmas isn’t merry.
In yesterday’s post, I suggested that one way to understand the birth of Christ is as the coming of God’s light into a darkened world. Darkness, surely, represents everything we think of as sin and evil. But it also includes everything that runs counter to the wholeness and goodness that originally came through God’s creative Word. The fact is that we suffer in many ways, and for many reasons, from outright malice to well-meaning ignorance to the decay and death of these mortal bodies.
What would it mean to celebrate that Light has come to darkness?
As I suggested last time, one thing it should mean, for followers of Jesus, is to be light ourselves. We’ve seen how John tells of Jesus standing in the temple courts, boldly declaring “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). But that should also make us think of his parallel command to his disciples:
You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16, CEB)
God sent Jesus to shine the light of his glory; so too does Jesus send us, that others who see how we live may be compelled to give praise to God.
When was the last time you thought of anyone praising God because of you? Especially during the Christmas season?
Maybe it’s in the inexplicably faithful and hopeful way you handle what should be a not-so-merry Christmas. Maybe it’s in the way you reach out to others. Maybe it’s just the infectious joy that radiates from your spirit when you contemplate the coming of almighty God in the form of fragile human flesh.
Whatever it is, whatever it could be, I pray that all of us who go by the name of Christian would be able to see past the seasonal anxieties and distractions that come with our culture’s definition of Christmas, and embrace our God-given vocation: we are God’s gift of light to a world that needs hope in the midst of darkness.
May your Christmas be blessed; may you be a blessing to others.