THE PEOPLE THAT WALKED IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT
The prophet Isaiah gives an interesting image of the coming messiah. We hear him speak with authority about the light that has come into the world thus, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in darkness a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase; they rejoice in your presence as men rejoice at the harvest time, as men are happy when dividing the spoils". The prophet continues, "For unto us a child born, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end". This passage captures vividly the sentiments and atmosphere of Christmas.
The gospel narrates the events that lead to the birth of Christ. It is a time when decree ruled the world. The great Caesar Augustus is in charge. The first census is taken. Joseph goes to be enrolled in the census with Mary because he belongs to the family of David. He is registering in the Kingdom of Christ. He becomes part of the census that transform the world of darkness into light, the census of salvation. Joseph and Mary enroll the world into the census of divine salvation. The story of the census turns into the history of incarnation, the birth of Christ. Humanity is no longer ruled by decree but by the law of love of God in Christ our savior. The prophecy of Isaiah is thus fulfilled, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a savior is given". The gospel says, "While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son"(Lk.2:6).
Mary gives birth to Christ in "a manger" because there is no room for them in the inn. Greatness comes in the form of littleness. Richness assumes the form of poverty. Christ dwells in a manger, in a simple and lowly place. Bethlehem, the small city receives the great King. Bethlehem becomes the gateway to salvation. Like Bethlehem, our hearts have to be open, meek and humble to receive the newborn King.
The shepherds watch their flock during the night. It is in this darkness that the message of the birth of Christ is brought to them: “the people that lived in darkness have seen the great light”. They are terrified especially by the threats of darkness. The light appears. The glory of the Lord shines on them. They become bearers of the great message of hope and deliverance. Poor shepherds become the first recipients of this great news as well as its messengers. Their excitement knows no bound. The angel says, "I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord". Immediately, the throng of heaven declares a party. There is singing and exultation: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy God's favor". This is the joy of Christmas.
We celebrate the birth of the savior in the hymn, "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon Virgin Mother and Child. Holy Infant so tender and mild! Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace!" Truly, God's grace has been revealed. Saint Paul describes it is an outpouring of God’s grace to liberate us from misleading worldly ambitions.
The message is that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Christ who is born for us is the light of the world. St. John puts it this way, "What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it" (Jn.1:4-5). He continues, "The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone..." (Jn.1:9).
We need to recognize this Light that is Christ. Unfortunately, many forces lead people in directions today away from the light. People prefer darkness. That is why such a special season as Christmas has become regrettably a time to keep watch from the forces of darkness. The forces of terrorism, destruction of life and greed want to take over. That is why ISIS is issuing threats and warnings to bomb churches and worship places during this time. Christmas gives us reason not to be afraid because our savior is born, he has come to give light to those in darkness.
We need to celebrate Christ at Christmas. We need to let him into the inn of our hearts. We have to let Christ permeate into the hearts and homes. If we walk in the light of Christ, then we take this light to others. Without Christ, the Christmas tree has no meaning. Without him, the crib has no meaning. Without Christ, there would be no story of Santa Claus. Christ is the reason for the trees, the flowers, the gifts. Families gather because of Christ. Friends celebrate because of Christ. He is the beauty of the season, the reason for joy all over the world.
In the Christmas edition of our Family Apostolate Newsletter, we gave three tips of how to celebrate Christmas, what we called “Doing the next good thing: discovering the next sick person, the next poor person, the next homeless, the next lonely, the next depressed, the next sick, the next bereaved, the next jobless, the next needy person.
- Think like the poor. The poor think not of gains or losses; they think of the moment.
- Behave like a child. A child is unselfish. Imagine the pains the child feels on seeing another cry. She joins in the cry.
- Act like the sheep. The sheep follows without questioning. She jumps when others jump, gives way when the competition is high.
That’s the best way to bring the light of Christmas to others. Let’s go a step higher from what the prophet Isaiah said- “The people that received the light of Christ have to become agents of light to others. Just do the next good thing.