The Long Night and Emmanual

Note: If you’re confused as to why I’m talking about Christmas on December 26, please note, I’m Catholic. The season ends on January¬†6. Christmas BEGAN on Christmas Eve. The four weeks prior to Christmas was Advent.

Christmas lies just after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year (marked by its very long night). The celebration of the Solstice has always been a reminder that the days are about to get longer. Indeed, when we Catholics are in the Advent Season, the nights are lengthening. We anticipate the coming of the light, but not just the light of the sun, but the light of Christ.

And so now, during this Christmas season, our days lengthen by about a minute each day. We likely won’t even notice it that much till we’re a week into January. Likewise, we don’t reflect so much on Christ’s ministry nor on his saving work. We reflect simply on His presence. We reflect on when and how He came.

It’s easy to get lost in the familiarity of the story. “Oh yeah, he was born in poverty.” Well, do we think of poverty? Do we reflect on the darkness?

I think, so often, we get so focused on the light, that we become repulsed by the surrounding darkness. We get offended by others sins, we react with shock when we’re reminded that this is the time of year where more people are depressed and where the suicide rate is higher. We get so focused on “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” when it isn’t. It is a dark time of the year, a time we bring light into with twinkle lights and candles, all while thinking of Christ, the light of the world being born in the poorest of conditions after being turned away by countless people.

The light comes to us in the darkness, and indeed, so much of the gospel is all about that. It’s heard best when you’re suffering, when you’re feeling like crying out “My God, why have you abandoned me?” The answer, the good news, is in the name. Emmanuel. God with us. Indeed, the gospel is that God has NOT abandoned us. And thus like those twinkle lights, we can bring joy out of the darkness and even find something quite beautiful.

A gospel that ignores the darkness misses the point. It’s like putting lights on a tree and refusing to turn off the light because “I’m afraid of the dark.” No, turn them off and appreciate. Indeed, not all is light, but we can bring light into the darkness. THAT is the joy of the season.