The Christmas Post

I know. Your feeds have been inundated these past few days with posts about The Christmas Story. Some have inspired with deep reflection. Others have guilt-tripped with consumerism protests or anarchist manger diatribes. Still others have been so cheesy as to cheapen the Incarnation itself, like a Wal-Mart version of the Word Made Flesh.

This is certainly an 11th hour offering (ok, it’s technically the day after Christmas), and I hope it’s not too cheesy. My aim is to inspire. But honestly, I’m tired from a day of Christmas fun, and as I sit here by myself next to the tree while everyone else is sleeping deeply, all I can really come up with is light.

When Jesus was beginning to preach in Galilee, he quoted the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Light is what struck me last night as we sang a carol with candles in the dark. Light shining on my little Gemma’s face as she earnestly listened to the words of Silent Night. Light filling those words with warmth and clarity.

And light is what made this morning so magical. Light pouring through the windows as our girls woke us up. Light that was magnified to the tenth power by the snow and ice covering every inch of ground (and some entire trees).

A flame in the dark, giving hope, showing the way.

A bright new day, driving out the night, calling us into the new.

The prophetic story that the nation of Israel was caught up in at the time of Jesus’s birth was one of darkness. Defeated, damaged, depressed darkness. Dreams broken, purposes unfulfilled, a divine vocation sidetracked by so many repeated failures that it seemed all but dead. Under empire oppression and religious placation this was a nation devoid of meaning, fumbling around in a dark cave with no hope and no future.

But then,

a flame.

Perhaps the same soft candle lighting up the space in which animals fed and slept and a baby lay in a trough still sticky from the birth and wrapped up to keep warm. It was not impressive. It was still really dark. But hope was flickering and a few recognized it. A few took the candlelight and the baby cries to mean

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel.

If Jesus and the prophetic narrative that he embodied are to be believed, then the flicker of a poor refugee baby born amongst lowing cattle as a genocide threatened to end his life before it began were the beginning of a bright new day. How is this possible? It is, really, impossible which is why it must have been a work of God – or a sham. Some darknesses snuff out even the faintest candle. Some darknesses persist, like a Scandinavian winter.

But as this child grew, he proved to be the light.

And his light was great.

To those of us who live in darkness, even now, this is good news.

It means that there is a light which cannot be overcome by even the deepest darkness we may find ourselves fumbling, or drowning, in. It means that even after a bad couple of years, in which everything that could go wrong did, and people left, and betrayed, and even died, and we were sick, and we were poor, and we were sad, and there was no hope and no future and the light was all but lost…

THEN

The day began to break, and it was as brilliant as the brightness reflecting off of snow covered hills and ice covered branches, consuming every inch, invading every nook, every cranny, with a new and living hope.

By the tree tonight, tired from all the activity, my heart is full. It’s been a hard couple of years. But the candle I and my little family have been holding onto for dear life just might become a bright new day.

I believe it.

I read these words to my wife and our girls this morning, knowing that being joined to this Messiah is to have God say of us,

This is my family, my beloved ones. I am delighted with them.

That is all hope, and all light.

May we all be met with a bright new day that drives out the darkness, because Jesus, the Light, has come into the world.

About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Find him on Twitter & Facebook!


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