I love Christmas…. but not for the normal reasons.
It’s not because of the music or the warm feeling or that everyone is kind to each other. It’s not the giving or the charity or the good will that we have toward fellow-man at this time of year that gets me. It’s not the cheeriness or the warm smells or even the time with family. And it’s not even JUST the wonder of the nativity and the Christmas story. The thought of Jesus as a baby brings wonder… but there’s still something more to it for me.
I love Christmas for this reason that feels almost backward.
I love Christmas because Christmas doesn’t hide from darkness. I love it because I don’t have to be happy to get it. I love it because my heart doesn’t have to feel a single “Holly Jolly” in order to participate in the drama and the magic of the season. I love Christmas because it is a time in which the parts of me that are most dark can be named and because time and time again in a beautiful God-ordained love song, God has shown me that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Here is a truth of Christmas–it GETS the darkness. It doesn’t shy away from the darkness… Even in the movie versions. How many Christmas stories involve some of the darkest circumstances? And still somehow hope triumphs. How many Christmas songs are sung in a minor key and still somehow the sound resonates within us?
Christmas gets the darkness… (And so therefore, so must GOD!) It stares it down hard. Somehow it’s in that darkness–the completeness of it, the deep and dazzling quality of it–that we are able to understand the miracle of the light.
My church is focusing on the first 18 verses of John for Advent.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him nothing was made that had been made. In him was light and that light was the light of all men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it….
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. In the darkness of separation from the one that I love. In the darkness of the loss of my mom and being with my husband’s family to gather as his grandfather slipped away–Andrew in Iraq… That Christmas season was so dark it was almost palpable. In the darkness of the aftermath of a miscarriage: the songs about how “A baby changes everything,” and the endless repetition of the words ‘newborn’ and ‘infant’ and ‘babe’ as I was coming to terms with the reality that the babe I had wanted would never be. In the uncertainty of a new year facing a surgery and an uncertain disease. Christmas and the Christ of Christmas embraced these darknesses and allowed me to name them. I felt them deep unto my bones.
And somehow in each of those times and in each of those places the light pierced through. Sometimes in pinpricks and sometimes with flood lights. Somehow I was sustained and thrown a lifeline of hope. The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not understand it and the darkness did not overcome it.
It happens each and every year. It is part of the divine drama of Christmas. In it is some of the best of the good news of the gospel. The darkness will not overcome the light. Not for any of us. We may think it’s been completely snuffed out. We may think the light has been hermetically sealed out and still somehow there will be a spark that will hit the wick of a candle and the light will seep through and the light will overcome.
The life that was the light of all men has been let out. In the dark of the night there was a mewling cry and it’s now grown into abundant life.
Christmas GETS the darkness. It stares it full in the face. And in subtle, gentle ways or in dramatic flourishing ways, the light of God overcomes.
And THIS. THIS is why I love Christmas.