The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light. (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:6)Sometimes we can't stop looking at the darkness. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. When we think about the direction of the world, it is easy to focus on the darkness, easy to lose hope.
But how many times have I been tempted to lose hope -- sometimes, have lost hope -- then later discovered that I was wrong? When I hear that "hope" is a virtue, in darker hours I mock that idea, thinking hope is baseless. And yet later events prove: really, it was the despair that was baseless. That has happened time and again over the years. If I have sometimes wrongly laughed off hope as baseless, when is the last time I laughed off despair as baseless?
Christmas -- Jesus' birth -- reaches a world where there is plenty of darkness. But there is also a lot of wallowing in darkness. "Hello, Darkness, my old friend" begins the haunting and resonating song -- we understand exactly what he means. We have lived there. There is a lot of seeing the world through dark glasses in order to be serious, and to be taken seriously. And there is a strange comfort in embracing the darkness.
The world loved darkness better. (John 3:19)Today we light festive lights which cheer up the darkness. It's a visible reminder that the light is more lovely than the darkness. We remember that lights -- decorative lights on the tree or the home, candles, firesides -- are also our old friends. And in the light, we can remember what we did not see in the dark: that our old friends are also our old friends, that despair has often proved false. That there may be a lot of enmity towards that child in the manger -- and to the Holy Immortal that would light the world -- but there are many who hold his name dear, along with the hope he brings us.