This past year has not been what we would call the best year ever. In fact, many of my friends have said they want nothing more than to toss the 2020 calendar in the trash. It has been what some might even call a dark year.
Darkness has been associated with such things as depression, or sadness. Being in the dark may mean you are unaware, or afraid.
Most of us have felt one or all these feelings at some point during 2020. I know I have. That is why I am so happy we have finally reached the holiday season once again.
The days might have grown shorter and the nights much longer, yet there is no reason to fear the dark. At this time of year, around the world, many traditions are amazingly similar and all attempt to “beat the dark.”
The Jews celebrate Hannukah, the Festival of lights. Hannukah celebrates the miracle of the temple oil that should have only lasted one day, but instead lasted for eight. One candle is lit for each of the eight nights of celebration. As the light grows brighter each night, so does their hope.
In Sweden, they celebrate St. Lucia Day. Although a Christian holiday now, it was once a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. On the shortest day of the year, the daughter of the home, dressed in a long white gown with a red sash, gets up early in the morning to prepare St. Lucia buns and coffee.
When it is still dark, she puts a wreath with lit candles on her head and proceeds to serve her family the treats. When the child wearing the lit wreath enters the room, the light dispels all darkness.
For Christians, the first day of Advent begins with the lighting of one of four candles each Sunday on the Advent wreath. The candles represent hope, peace, joy, and love.
Each week, we light another candle, the light grows brighter, and so does our excitement and anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the fifth candle called the Christ candle is lit. And so, the light has “beat the dark.”
If darkness is associated with negative things, then light represents the opposite, positive things. In fact, light is associated with the Divine. God is light.
On a dark night over 2,000 years ago, I can imagine that the young Joseph and Mary were very afraid. Yet, they did not have to be because something very joyous happened. The Light of the World, Jesus Christ, was born.
Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
This is the “good news” of Christ. When Jesus was born, darkness was beat, and light trumped. With his birth, the darkness of fear was beat, the darkness of depression was beat, the darkness of loneliness was beat, the darkness of sickness was beat, and the darkness of death was beat once and for all.
The victory of Jesus is that he crushes darkness and triumphs over all evil, to shine his glorious light on us. We don't have to be afraid of the dark anymore.
On Christmas Day, we remember that the Light of the World is born. Jesus Christ has fought the battle and won the fight, so we are victoriously living in his light and love forever.
Bolton, pastor at Dias Creek United Methodist Church and South Dennisville Trinity United Methodist Church, writes from North Cape May.