December 20, 2017
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. Isaiah 9:2
Charles Dickens famously began his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”, contrasting England and France during the French Revolution. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness” This quote came to mind listening on C-SPAN to members of both houses of Congress give their one-minute speeches on the tax reform plan. “It is the best plan, it is the worst plan.” History will judge soon enough.
What history has already told us is that when Christ appeared in human flesh in Bethlehem it was a “season of Darkness”. Cynical despair had settled in among the Roman populace. Whatever faith they had in their gods was eroding. The light of hope for the Jews awaiting for the Messiah was growing faint. Their religious leaders had carved out comfortable positions for themselves while oppressing the poor and public sinners. They hated the Roman occupation of their land and longed for deliverance.
Then Isaiah’s prophecy came true: On those dwelling in a land of deep darkness, a light had shone. The brightness of angels in the night alerting the shepherds and the guiding star over the Magi were merely supporting lights for the Light of the World that had arrived. No more darkness, no more despair, no more “worst of times”.
Dickens wrote a novel, based on history. Our personal history is non-fiction based on our own best of times and worst of times. The contrast is sharper at Christmas. Families travel far to consume their gifts and feasts while the homeless and hungry endure the coldest month and shortest light. The exuberance of children contrasts with the depression of those who are enduring loneliness and loss.
It is wise not to expect from the Christmas holiday what it cannot deliver. Family and feasts do not themselves give us the Light that overtakes the darkness of the soul. Only the Light that outshone the Bethlehem angels and Star can heal the source of all our despair and darkness. Our joy at Christmas is not sourced in our celebration of it, but in the Christ who endured the darkness of the cross and tomb and shone the Light of forgiving grace on Easter morning.
Christmas means we can still have the worst of times, a season of darkness, but ultimately have the best of times, an eternity of Light.
Blessed Christmas all Year.