The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I’ve always loved Christmas lights. Candles flickering, lights twinkling, fires radiating, all of it. Whether it’s staring at the Christmas tree or walking around to see the decorations on houses, particularly those that subtly use light to reveal the shapes of things while hinting at a greater depth beyond the outline, I love it all. In the Northern Hemisphere, the infusion of light into the darkness that becomes prevalent this time of year transforms the world into a lived chiaroscuro, drawing our attention to ordinary things cast in a new light.
But all this lighting so present in these Christmas traditions mesmerizes not merely in the transformed appearance it gives to ordinary things. At Christmastime, the light itself draws our attention; offering a living, analogical explanation of John’s claim that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” One of the most beautiful infusions of Scripture and liturgy I’ve had the pleasure to witness is the Hispanic tradition of Las Posadas.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Las Posadas is a “novena” celebration that goes from December 16th-December 24th, celebrating Mary’s nine-month pregnancy, and reminding us of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph’s struggle to find room in Bethlehem. The children of the community dress as Mary and Joseph, shepherds, and angels, while the rest of the community carries lighted candles with the procession. The procession travels to different houses (or to their parish) singing a song asking for shelter, and the host replies back. The procession is invited in fOrr a party that ends with a piñata. In Santa Fe, the luminarias, or paper bag lanterns, illuminate the paths for the last day of Las Posadas. Such traditions, the visual commentary offered in the flickers of so many small candles and luminarias, help us to grasp a deeper understanding of St. John’s deeply mystical understanding of the Incarnation and Nativity of Christ.What St. John is getting at in His prologue is that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed a human nature to His Person and was born into this world. Think about all the myths and legends you have ever read about men seeking immortality: Achilles in the river Styx, Hercules, explorers seeking a fountain of youth, Tuck Everlasting, etc. Humans have always had a fascination with the idea of immortality. How incomprehensible, then, that a perfect, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent being Who is perfectly satisfied in Himself, would nevertheless create and, having created, choose to save that creation from their own chosen fate. The Word is the Light—and as the light itself is revealed and reveals what is nearest to it, so much more does the Word made Flesh reveal Himself and the Godhead to us.
But what’s particularly remarkable is that God loves you.
This Divine Person became human to give Himself to you. Christmas can get stressful. Christmas tends to bring up all sorts of emotions of the happier and more sad kind. Some of you might be experiencing your first or fifteenth Christmas without a loved one. Some of you might be suffering from health issues and surgery recoveries. Some from the thousand little burdens that you can’t bear any longer. Or from the one giant burden that threatens to crush you. And some of you receive the grace to be full of joy; despite your own struggles, you have the kindness to turn to your friends in need and ignore your own needs for a moment. I don’t suppose to know what you are going through, or what you’ve gone through. But I can say that Christ came to free us, out of love, from the immeasurable weight of suffering.
Sin fills the world with a whole lot of darkness; and, like when we were children, darkness gives monsters a whole lot of room to fill. But, like when we were kids, the luminance of a single, small light can make all the difference, because it gives us the hope of the morning. Christ is that first warm glow Who shares that light with all His members and pulls us to the eternal light of the Most Holy Trinity. At Christ’s entrance into the world, the angels preclaimed:
to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
So when you see the Christmas lights these last few days before we stand in the light of Christmas morning, I invite you to turn to Christ and take heart. Let the flickering Christmas lights this season serve as a visible reminder of hope—God overcame the hopeless, impossible tragedy justice demanded on account of man’s infinite sin against an infinite God. Never was any cause as desperate as man’s, and yet God saved us by becoming Man, by taking our place. When you feel most hopeless and despairing, remember that when we were still sinners, the Word came down to reveal to us the glory of the Father and to offer Himself up for the forgiveness of sins, because God loves you.