This morning early (December 15) I got up and the neighbourhood was dark, foggy and foreboding in the midst of winter’s embrace. I could barely make out the tree in our backyard and the streetlights were still on with droplets of rain highlighted by the light. Far down the street the ghostly flashing lights of the local school bus shimmered as it stopped to pick up students ready for another school day. What a dark and dreary world it can be, I thought. It reminded me how Charles Dickens started his ‘Tale of Two Cities’: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The book of Isaiah in chapter 60, tells us: “See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth; people all over are cloaked in darkness. Yes, I said quietly, as I reflected on what we daily read in our newspapers and hear and see on media and our TVs. The big crisis in our hospitals, Covid 19, war in Ukraine and other places, cost of living, despair of our young people about their ability to participate in our communities. The cost of everyday food and necessities. The numerous concerns expressed in the media about environmental/political events and expert forecasts for a year of recession and inflation. The 2023 look ahead appears gloomy.
And always I find that at this time of Christmas it comes at us in hyper size and time, where everything seems to be gigantically overstated. Even the traffic on the main throughfares seems full of anxious drivers getting things done or trying to get things done before…… Things and events seemed to get compacted and backed-up in ridiculous fashion. Black Friday, oh the rush for bargains, loading up our credit cards with debts and worry. Fear for January 16th when the bills will hit. And don’t forget to send cards to uncles, aunts, friends and acquaintances and what about presents…Oh my, we are full of businesses and worry. Checking our lists twice, three-times. Can even the jolly elf of the North Pole with his HO! Ho! Ho! cheer us up or a Rudolf with his nose so bright, can he guide us in this dark night that we now face? Where is that breathing space, that quiet assurance whisper that we all long for, telling us ‘take it easy, it will be alright’. Even churches recognize the crush and organize special ‘blue Christmas’ events and services for those who feel the pressure of sadness and loneliness as they reminisce past events or consider their future.
Maybe it is not Christmas itself that causes this heightening of our senses at all, but rather it is something more like the ‘ending’ of a year. A closing off of a life-time, as we come to the end of 2022; like the end of an aera, a slipping away without the chance to revisit, do over and do a refresh to a major portion of who we are and how we were and…… do better? I think something of this is felt by everyone but especially those who have travelled over rough ground and scaled emotional mountains going where the way was not clear, or dipped into valleys of unknown paths, even life-threatening dead-end scares. Perhaps we should celebrate Christmas at another time, move it, there is just too much disturbing noise, maybe switch it with Thanksgiving? The fall can be lovely and bright and pleasing. And then a December Thanksgiving may be more in a respectable place at the end of the year. More uplifting and positive? Just a time of plain giving-thanks. What a great idea!
But would the hurts go away? after all we are merely human. Remember Murphy’s law: what will come, will come! Life is not always a bowl of cherries. Sadly though, life is not always a beach! The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians even says: “Now we see through a glass darkly.” Yes, so what are we to do?
But there is a prophetic word for those who despair, exclaimed long ago: “The people (that includes us) who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And what is that light? It is the light that will brighten for everyone in the world. John the apostle in his day proclaimed and said: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome. it”. I was reminded of a song, one that I learned when I was young. A Christmas song: “Het dagent in het Oosten, het licht schijnt overal”, “it is shimmering in the East”. The light! The light is coming!
So then another Bible verse entered my mind: “See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth; people all over are cloaked in darkness. Book of the Prophet Isaiah – chapter 60 – verse 2; (the Voice Tr.) and then what follows is the key as to why we shine lights at Christmas and why Christmas is always celebrated full of lights. Lights that dispel the darkness of the season and the darkness of the soul and light our paths into the future. As the prophet Isaiah predicted: Arise, shine, for your light has broken through! The Eternal One’s brilliance has dawned upon you. For God will rise and shine on you; the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see. Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light, will find purpose and direction by your light. Your GPS!
This promise, in the splendour of heavenly lights, proclaimed by angels to the shepherds is a proclamation of HOPE: “Give God glory! for all who seek Him, they will be blessed with PEACE! To them is the promise: “For unto you is born this day a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”. The Lord of Peace and Love. The bright Morningstar! May you know this light giver this Christmas 2022!
A thrill of HOPE for all the world!
Listen to the words of the song: ‘O Holy Night’
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born; O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; in all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! before Him lowly bend! Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. His power and glory evermore proclaim.
Songwriters: Placide Cappeau, Adolphe Adam, John Sullivan Dwight
And another song: ‘Beautiful Saviour‘
1 Beautiful Savior, King of creation, Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love Thee, truly I’d serve thee, Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.
2 Fair are the meadows, Fair are the woodlands, Robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer; He makes our sorr’wing spirit sing.
3 Fair is the sunshine, Fair is the moonlight, Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels in the sky.
4 Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations, Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, Praise, adoration, Now and forevermore be Thine!
Gesanbuch Munster 1677
JS Christmas December 2022