Although I grew up in a dysfunctional family system, my parents usually managed to make Christmas special. I remember falling asleep to Christmas music from vinyl records playing on our stereo Hi-Fi. Two particular records were played over and over. One had all the famous artists of the day, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, Robert Goulet, Christy Minstrels, and others, singing songs like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Suzy Snow Flake and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. The other album was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing traditional Christmas songs.
The music filled the house, softly serenading my brothers and me. My bedroom glowed from the lights on the Christmas tree as the twinkling colors filtered through the small house. My mother would stay up late at night baking cookies and fruit breads. The house was filled with the aroma of Christmas spices. As I drifted off to sleep, all of my senses were soothed with the comfort of home, family, love, and the expectations of Christmas morning.
Almost a hundred years ago Christmas trees and homes were lit with candles. The idea of using electric light was just being born, and it was met with resistance. Who would want a constant source of light? Who would want light that bright? But the protest was short-lived. Before long every house and business was lighted by electricity. Gone was the old way of living, of going to bed early, when darkness prevailed. Gone was the time when long hours of being unproductive encouraged us to be present to the mystery of darkness.
If one looks up at the night sky, one sees far more darkness than light. Most of the universe is dark, with a few stars and planets dotting the darkness. We humans are born in darkness - the womb is a dark place where we are formed into tiny humans. Darkness is fertile and rich with possibility. Darkness invites us to ponder life, God, and hope. Darkness points the way to light and new life.
As Christians we celebrate the coming of the light as the birth of Jesus. The mystery of this night is that Christ is born in us. The light of Christ, God’s pure love, works from the inside out. Spiritual transformation is interior work that becomes exterior action.
When the circumstances of our lives leave us feeling dark and bleak, God searches for a way to fill us with light, to work on us from the inside out, transforming our darkest night into the light of hope. Like Gabriel’s invitation to Mary, to birth the Christ Child, God invites us to let God into our lives. God waits expectantly for us to open our hearts to God’s love. Most often it is in the darkest places of our lives, when we are most vulnerable, that we open our hearts to God. Then, darkness becomes the womb that gives birth to hope. Emmanuel is with us. The Christ child is born anew this night in each and every one of us.
This is our Christian story, of God active in the world through the birth and life of Jesus, and thus in us, too. Jesus is God’s love manifest in human flesh. God has chosen to work through human beings, to restore order out of chaos, to heal broken places, to soothe sorrow, to be present to despair, to love as God loves. God does not move into our lives and magically fix all the problems. God works through us, at our pace, to bring hope and well being.
In this Christmas season may we know God’s abiding presence of peace and love. May God’s peace and love transcend every challenge we face. May God’s love be birthed anew in us. Like a burning flame reflecting warmth and light into the world may we be a God-given ray of hope, peace, love, and joy to all the world. May our light be the light of Christ. Through this light, may we work together to heal the broken places of this world. And, may the flame of God’s presence sustain you all the days of your life.