“The people walking in darkness has seen a great light… The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it… I am the light of the world, whoever believes in me shall not walk in darkness but will walk in the light of life.” (Isaiah 9:2; John 1:5; John 9:5)
These words of the Bible summarize the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about light, but not only about the lights around town. Christmas lights symbolize the One True Light that has come into the world. Christmas is about much more than one miraculous star that shined brightly 2000 years ago and led the wise men to find the Christ child. More significantly, Christmas is about the coming of DIVINE LIGHT into a dark world. This is the Good News of great joy which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds – the Divine Light has come into a world of darkness!
The Divine Light became a human being, and for those who choose to receive that Light, and follow that Light, their lives will never be the same. The Divine Light has come into a world of darkness and has changed our perspective of the world and our hope for the future, and it can change the lives of each one of us!
Every year I teach a course on World Religions at Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology. As a part of this class, my students visit five different places of worship representing the great world religions. Whenever we visit a Jewish synagogue and listen to the rabbi talk about Judaism, one of the questions my students inevitably ask is why Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The rabbi typically answers that when the Messiah comes on earth, he will bring peace and good will to all people. The Jewish Messiah will usher in an era of peace and stability, where, as the prophets say, the lamb and the lion will sit down together. The rabbi then states that if we look at the world before the coming of Jesus, and the world after the coming of Jesus, we don’t really see much change. The years of BC and the years of AD are both full of darkness – the darkness of violence, ignorance, evil, and ongoing death. So, one can honestly ask, “What difference has the coming of Jesus made in the world? If He is truly the Messiah, why hasn’t the world changed?”
A valid and tough question that Christians need to answer. Just look at the news every day, and we read death and the pandemic, about war and violence, about hatred and evil, about greed and suffering, and about the destruction of our world’s planet as well as the destruction to God’s greatest creation, humanity itself. Two thousand years after the coming of the Messiah and there still seems to be too much darkness in the world.
Well, if we believe that the coming of Christ, and that is what Christmas celebrates, will usher in an era of peace and good will on earth, then we don’t understand well what the Bible, the Church, and our Christian faith actually teach. In fact, if we dream about peace and good will on earth here and now – for a utopia on earth – then we surely don’t understand or even know what Jesus Himself taught. Jesus clearly told his followers that there would be many wars and tumultuous times in the future. He warned his followers that they must be prepared to take up their cross, to suffer and die, and become martyrs of the faith. The little baby born in Bethlehem would Himself grow up and experience all the darkness and ignorance and violence of the world, and would suffer terribly, even tasting death itself. So, in a very concrete sense, Jesus never promised that the world we live in would become a better, more peaceful, more beautiful place in the near future.
The coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas is an announcement of hope in the midst of ongoing darkness. The Divine Light has shined in the midst of a dark world and revealed that darkness isn’t the only way. We can follow a different path of peace in the midst of this dark world. We can embrace light and hope and love in this world even in the midst of darkness!
One of my favorite images for understanding Christmas can be taken from World War 2. Think of the devastating war that engulfed the entire world for six years. War is the pinnacle of the world’s darkness, evil and suffering. During WW2, many people suffered terribly and were longing for an end to the war. And when did that end happen? Well in the European theatre, one could argue that the end of WW2 began on D-Day, June 6, 1944 when the allied forced landed on the beaches of Normandy. Once the allied forces got a foothold on mainland Europe, the end of the war was in sight. This was the beginning of the end of the war!
Yet, how much longer did the war go on? V-Day, the actual end of the war didn’t happen for another 15 months on September 2, 1945. During those 15 months, there was still much bloodshed and violence, darkness, suffering and death as the war raged on. Yet both the allied forces, and the axis powers knew that the tides of the war had turned, and the end was near. For the subjugated peoples, they understood the good news that the oppression and tyranny of evil forces was coming to an end. This is the message of Christmas!
Christmas can be seen as D-Day against the forces of Satan and all his powers of darkness. Christ’s Second Coming will ultimately be V-Day. At Christmas – Christ’s First Coming – God entered the world in a surprising way that fundamentally signifies the eventual end of darkness in the world. As we heard in the Epistle reading for Christmas, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son.” (Galatians 4:4) The coming of our Eternal God as a human being, the coming of the Uncreated Light into a world of darkness, the coming of Jesus the Messiah and the Christ as the Savior of the world, offers a sign of hope to the world that the reign of darkness is coming to an end!
Yes, there is still darkness and violence and much evil occurring every day in the world, and it will continue and even get worse until the Second Coming of Christ. Let us understand, though, that we are in that difficult yet hopeful period in between D-Day and V-Day. The Good News of Great Joy at Christmas announces that a Savior is born. God has come among us and given the world hope! For everyone who chooses to accept this Divine Light in our own lives, we will never despair of any darkness we see all around us because we know that the darkness shall never prevail. V-Day is around the corner. Until that time, however, we will engage against the darkness. We may suffer in the darkness but we know through Christ we can overcome it. We can overcome the darkness of ignorance by living in the light of divine knowledge. We can overcome the darkness of sin and evil by living in the light of God’s goodness. We can overcome the darkness of hatred and violence by living in the light of divine love, forgiveness and mercy. We can overcome the darkness of death by living in the light of Christ’s resurrection and victory!
Christmas is about “people walking in darkness and seeing a great light.” Christmas is about “Light shining in the darkness and the darkness never overcoming it.” Christmas is about Jesus, “the light of the world, helping whoever believes in Him to never walk in darkness but to always walk in the light of life.”
This is Good News of Great Joy to everyone who chooses to understand and live by the Divine Light of Jesus Christ. Many people will not understand and thus, will see a world of darkness all around. Those who choose to not understand will miss the essence of Christmas is truly about.
Yet for those of us who believe and follow newborn child in Bethlehem, we know that a Divine Light has shined forth, and we will never be afraid of darkness again! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!