Perhaps not so in other countries, but here where we live, Christmas is a picture of the good life we think to be the norm for Americans, a good life that doesn’t have to be affluent. If that’s true, then Advent is a picture of the way it ought to be lived out.
Rich or poor in America, most of us string lights and sit around the tree, candles glowing, glad for the season. There are many however, both rich and poor, who are in darkness so deep that lasers and night vision goggles won’t help at all. Some of us remember just what that was like. With the night comes cold in the desert, and we remember that, too. Cold, dark, lonely lives, often in the midst of so much activity, sometimes even with wealth, and with so many people jostling for attention. That horrid feeling that nobody really knows where you are, and that nobody really cares.
That’s the whisper that darkness brings.
Here is a little something that I hope you will take to heart, if nothing else in all these entries stands out. Do go cut a slice of Christmas cake and pour a cup of your favorite coffee, and I’ll tell you what it is, although you know it well yourself.
All the while, as I drink mine, there is a young woman of my acquaintance on the streets with AIDS, temperatures well below freezing at night, and she barely able to remember to take her medication. Her boyfriend is in the same shape, but without divine intervention, he may not make it until Christmas. He’s very sick.
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 were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The light shines in darkness, and during Advent, we light a candle against all that seeks to confound and corrupt our souls. It isn’t this young woman or this young man or those rioting in the streets or those corrupt in high office or your office, but it is the lawlessness through which love can grow cold. It is the looking around all year long and seeing so much that so much effort has not been able to repair. Not just “out there,” either … we all have those close to home and heart that hurt so badly so much of the time.
And so … we celebrate and we pray. We feast and we fast. We rejoice and we weep, and in all, we lift our hearts and those we’ve been given to love, up to the love of God.
I know you have ornaments like those on your tree, as I do. It’s Christmas in our hearts, but they are in our hearts, too. Friends in terrible trouble. Divorce, disease, depression, death … crushing realities of life that don’t go away during December. They are ornaments, not for show, but the little mementos of our compassion that dangle and twirl before our eyes. It’s never been that we try to escape or even forget them for a season, but how can we make those two realities come together, like a peppermint stick? Our own joy, our divine choices, our love for those who cannot seem to pull it together … like holly and ivy there are so many things we simply cannot integrate properly. They grow on the same bush, but while the one blossoms, the other stabs if worn close to the heart.
When I was a little girl, my mother used to sing an antique Christmas tune from the time the tree went up. “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, won’t you please put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny then a ha’penny will do … if you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!”
Some of you kept Christmas when a fat peppermint stick was something to get excited about. Many of you can say that there was always something to give, somehow, though truly you may not be able to say now from whence it could have come.
Light came into the world in Christ Jesus, but all was not merry or bright then, either. His job was not to make an eternal Christmas, but to shine in the darkness, and so is ours. That is our celebration, and there upon our tree hang those reminders that we have been entrusted with souls steeped in darkness. We do love to celebrate this season because He is our Christmas.
May God grant that our Christmases display the splendor of joy and the brilliant love of God, with or without padded wallets. God gave His Son. It doesn’t make any sense.
Unless you know Him.
Beautiful glass ornaments
Courtesy of American Eagle Outfitters