This past Saturday was the first day of winter. For the next three months, we can expect colder weather, gloomier days and snow.
But there is hope! The first day of winter is also the longest night of the year. Over the next six months the days will be growing longer. We will have one more minute of light in the morning and one more minute of light in the afternoon. Slowly but surely, the light is taking over. We cannot notice the difference yet. But as the weeks pass by we will start to notice that it is light out later. Soon nature will notice as well. The spring will arrive, the buds will blossom and the long winter nights will give way to warm summer evenings. And it all started this past Tuesday with the first day of winter.
On this Christmas night, gathered in the dark and the cold, we proclaim in faith with the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The light is Jesus. He was born to a world engulfed in the darkness of poverty, war and seemingly endless conflict. His birth brings the hope of peace and the light of love.
This dawning of God’s love and mercy was imperceptible at first. Only Joseph and Mary knew who this child would be. But God would not allow his gift of love to go unnoticed. He sent His angels to announce to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night that their Savior was born. Meanwhile, a star was leading wise men from the east to bring Him gifts. All of heaven was rejoicing in His birth. Now God was beginning to gather people to worship Him. The light of God’s love was breaking into the world and being proclaimed. Little by little, the whole world would come to know it.
It has been over two thousand years now since the angels first proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the world. During that time, the good news has spread over all the world. In every land, churches have been built to enshrine His presence and proclaim His word. Billions of people have been baptized in His name and have experienced the forgiveness of their sins through the blood He shed on the cross. Billions of people have taken comfort in His promise of everlasting life and drawn strength from faith in His presence. Slowly but surely, the light is overcoming the darkness.
Unfortunately, so much of our world continues to live in sadness and despair. So many have fallen prey to the lie that there is nothing beyond this world and this life. They must live every day with the emptiness that comes from having no purpose greater than their own pleasure and material success. We find such people among our families and friends. We find such people in our schools and places of business. We even find them in our churches. They are walking in darkness. The light of Christ has not reached them.
That is where we come in. Our celebration of this blessed event will be empty if it stays here in this church or within our homes. We must bring the light out with us into the dark and cold world to those who have not yet heard the good news and to those who have heard but have not yet understood or accepted it. Like the angels on that first Christmas night, we must proclaim that the glory of God has appeared and that it can be found in the man, Jesus Christ.
Our second reading teaches us how we can do that. We must reject godless ways and worldly desires to embrace the grace of Christ. If our lives are not transformed by the light of Christ, then our words will have no power to convince anyone. We must live justly, temperately and devoutly as Saint Paul urges us if we are to be beacons of hope spreading the light of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, our Savior Jesus Christ is born for us. Our celebration of this blessed event gives us joy and peace. The light of love and faith has conquered the darkness of ignorance, conflict and selfishness. Let us welcome this light first of all into our own lives so that we may be transformed by it. May the light shine in our lives so that others may experience the peace that only Christ can give. Then, one heart at a time, the light of Christ will take over until the night is no more.