For the week of January 3, 1998
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land if the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2)
A predominant theme in the two holidays of this season is light. One of the names of Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, because of the nine-branched candlestick that is lit to proclaim the miracle of the holiday. Christmas too is a holiday of lights. The homes of many neighborhoods are decorated with an abundance of lights inside and out.
Light is a miracle of creation. In the book of Genesis it is the first thing that God said-Let there be light, and there was light.
Light gives life. All creation depends on it. Many in the Northern Hemisphere find this time of year difficult, because the days are shorter, providing less light. It is appropriate that these holidays are celebrated during the darkest days of the year.
Lack of light brings confusion. These are dark days. Every year we hope that life in our world will get better. Instead we see the continual rise of war, disease, family turmoil, and economic inequality.
And yet light dispels darkness. These holidays speak about God the creator of light shining through the darkness. Hope amidst despair, life in the face of death, freedom for the oppressed.
These holidays tell us that God is real and is involved in life. He is not a concept or a fable. As real as the rising of the morning sun after a long starless night. So God breaks through and lights up our lives.
Perhaps the greatest darkness we ever experience is the feeling of loneliness. It has been said that this is the loneliest time of the year. Could it be that we might be sensing our alienation from God and long that the stories of Hanukkah and Christmas might be true after all? These holidays tell us that we are not alone. There is a light shining in the darkness.