The celebration of Jesus' birth is one of the most important holidays for us Christians. Unfortunately, it has also been tainted to reflect the epitome of our counter-christian, consumer culture - the ultimate defiance of what Christianity really stands for. The irony of this weighs heavy on my heart. It inevitably, always dampens my spirit around Christmas time. I struggle to fight and ignore the greed and gluttony that this season brings, and try with great effort to enjoy a peaceful christmas spirit, quality time with family and friends, and remembrance of the miracle of Jesus' birth and life.
But, as I sat listening to the pastor preach at the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, I was reminded not to look at the darkness - but to look at the light.
"As the first Christians came to see Jesus in the manger - the 3 wise-men, the shepherds, the angels - they did not come with heavy hearts to criticize the darkness that surrounded and consumed the world. They came to rejoice and behold the tiny but great light that had entered the world."
The light. A baby. A helpless newborn baby. A small, delicate seedling. A divine light sprouting. The smallest, most helpless form. Yet, this small light would grow, and bring unending light into the world. A light that would grow so strong that it would still shine bright over 2,000 years later. And is still growing.
Is there darkness in this world? Yes.
Is there terror and horror, greed and selfishness, injustice and sorrow? Yes, of course.
Is it overwhelming? Yes.
But, there is also light.
Sometimes, I am not sure which is more common in this world - the light or the darkness. Usually I feel that there is more darkness, because I focus on it. I see it, I criticize it, I despise it, and I try to fight it. But this only wears me down. It only distracts me from the good, and in doing so makes me spend less energy doing good, and fighting for good. Ultimately, subtracting from the energy going to the good in this world.
There is also light. And light is more powerful than darkness.
I realize that focusing on what I see wrong with the world, our culture, the people here does no good. It is painful though, to witness so many things deteriorating what could be a better world, destroying potential for goodness and love. I cannot forget that focusing on these things brings me closer not to light but to the darkness. Such thoughts take away from the light that does exist in me, and ultimately the world. It is all too easy to focus on the darkness and feel as if there is no hope- and that only leads me closer to falling, and being consumed by the greed, evil and hate in this world. One less hopeful, faithful soul to fight for good.
I chose instead to focus on the light, no matter how small. For everyone who turns from darkness and looks to light looks to God and glorifies His work. It is better to look for the light, shed light on the good, and to remind myself and others that there is still, some inch of hope, some ray of light. Then when darkness comes I can say that it is not all-powerful, for some good still exists- and if some exists it can grow. Just like that baby grew into a man - and into a divine God who to this day still pours His love out on me and so many others. If a light that small can grow as exponentially as it has, a light any size, can grow to be great.
This is what Christmas taught me this year. I pray in the future that I rejoice and behold the light. Fight not against evil, but for good. Will you join me?