Christmas: Basking in the Light

Christmas: Basking in the Light

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

"He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him." –John 1:1-5, 10

Blessings to each of you for “this holy tide of Christmas”!

In my family of origin and maybe in yours as well, our Christmases were a blend of traditions and music and smells and tastes from many regions and across many years. We sang Christmas carols of ancient vintage and some carols and songs from various eras up until the present.

Like the stories of the gospels, the stories and songs each have a unique perspective on the Christmas story and offer a variety of ways we might receive this wonderful gift of the birth of Christ and what it means for our lives “the whole year long.” This year’s Prayer Calendar refers us to John 1 which presents a beautiful poetic description of the power and meaning of the incarnation. One of the metaphors John uses is light. Even though the world came into being through the light, the world did not recognize the light in Jesus. The light did not come for just a few people—Jesus is the light for all people and, powerfully, the darkness does not extinguish the light.

Many of the carols and stories that we tell at Christmas time carry this sense of the light being for all people. Whether it is King Wenceslas and his squire reaching out to the poor man who lives by St. Agnes’ fountain, or the ghosts (or angels?) reaching out to Mr. Scrooge, the stories reflect that the light reaches beyond ourselves, beyond the persons in the lighted church singing carols and includes those who are marginalized or who have cut themselves off from God and others. They point us to a Christmas celebration that is not only about the joy of reunions with family and friends, but a season to reach out, to welcome in and to connect with those who are struggling, building relationships that can continue.

Small Places

And the light is not extinguished. I remember thinking that some of the songs (like “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” or “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”) and stories like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, portrayed a very dark world. In these stories we are very aware that the light of Christmas and family and love is circumscribed in small places (the stable, a home or church) and may seem both distant and thin. I remember feeling like my world was so different—so much more light; so much more connection with people in my town or my school. I’ve been thinking of the feeling of these stories and songs again this year, because I feel a resonance with the sense of darkness in our world surrounding islands of light.  Our human institutions seem very fragile—our church, governments around the world facing the renewed power of old divisions, and in our own country where we see a resurgence of divisions by race and class and the kind of injustice that prompts our work on Living Wage, Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline, Maternal Health and Just Energy for All.

Thanks be to God for the coming of Jesus as the True Light who has come for us all and for this potent affirmation that the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. Let’s bask in that light a little this Christmas, opening our hearts to the love of God. And let’s find ways to open the doors and the windows of our own circumscribed places so that the light spills out; let us point to the light as we go about our daily tasks and as we build connections with marginalized people and speak up for a more just society; let us reflect that light as we walk and work and pray together in the new year.

Harriett Jane Olson is CEO and General Secretary of United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 12/23/2019 12:00:00 AM

Give Thanks. Give Now.

Advent 2019

December 1: First Sunday of Advent
December 8: Second Sunday of Advent
December 15: Third Sunday of Advent
December 22: Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 24: Christmas Eve
December 31: New Year's Eve