The other night, I was coming across the Harbour Bridge and I noticed on the waterfront, the large Christmas tree made of lights. You cannot miss it… no matter how fast one may be driving! Originally, this tree made of light was put up to help raise funds for the area food banks. Every time the food bank hit a certain amount of food, they would light up one string of lights. The goal was to have the tree fully lit before Christmas, telling everyone, that the food bank had reached it’s goal. I do not remember it ever not being fully lit by Christmas Eve. This tree gives many people hope, and a ‘light’ especially those who are experiencing the darkness of hunger. And yet, in this pandemic time, many are experiencing darkness in so many different ways.
At the beginning of Advent, a challenge was issued by Holy Spirit Parish to light up our homes for Advent… the reason: to give people hope that we believe that the great light of Jesus Christ is the light that dwells among us, even during these darkened times of the pandemic. Thankfully, many took this challenge to heart and no matter where one looks, beautiful lights and decorations gives us a sense of peace.
In the First Reading from Isiah, we heard, “the people who walk in darkness… have seen a great light… those who lived in a land of darkness, on them a light has shone.” This is Christmas Eve, we will join the countless people around the world who will be celebrating the beginning of Christmas Season. And yet, this year will be a different kind of Christmas because of the current pandemic that has infected the world. Any other year, this mass would have been packed with families, kids, pageants, and chaos.
But this year is different… from Bethlehem to the Vatican to our local church the celebrations are simpler smaller, quieter, and a lot more intimate. Again, Isaiah was speaking of us. We are the ones ‘who walk in darkness… looking for light,’ to guide us. For many around the world, this is the time to allow us to be touched by the simplicity of God, at the same time, giving us ‘light’ and ‘hope’.
So, if this is the season of hope and light…. where is it? In the darkness that this year has brought us, where is the hope where is the light? The answer: It’s here…among us… the hope and the Light… not found on Christmas trees or other decorations… the hope and light resides within us and among us.
Many will not be able to join others for the Christmas Season, nor will family or friends member who are living or studying in other provinces or abroad be with us physically. Perhaps we may not have the same resources that we had last year… the shopping has been reduced, keeping in line with the lack of parties and other celebrations. And yet, somehow, the Light and hope will be with them too… found with others that they will join in the same situation. When a good friend invited me to his home for Christmas dinner, he said, “we’re keeping it simple…no fancy dishes, just a turkey dinner with the family… that’s it…”
I believe that he touched on what is being asked of us for this Christmas. This year, we celebrate Christmas…. stripped of all its garland, parties and consumerism, let the focus be Jesus and on one another… witnessing to the Christ in others and self. If this pandemic has done anything positive, it has shown us that truly we are one… from the wealthy and poor; the powerful and the powerless; from the most educated to the least educated.
Tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel… God With Us. Tonight we heard the story 2000 years old… how Jesus was born in a time of great darkness when Judea was occupied by Roman rule. Puppet rulers were put in place to collect taxes for the Romans and EVERYONE had to go back to their place of origin to register, to be accounted for. Joseph and a pregnant Mary made their way to be registered. Add to this that Mary and Joseph could find nowhere to stay. So in the darkness of a stable, along with the stench of farm animals, the Light was born among us. Shepherds, Kings, Spiritual Beings and the ordinary came to God under the Light of the Star… finding hope!
Today we begin the season of Christmas and so we are invited to continue the story of Jesus… the one who brought us Light and hope. Let us allow this same light to come into the stable of our lives: our poverty, brokenness, anxiety, depression, loneliness, our doubts, our mourning, the unknown the awaits each of us.
Because our story is the storey of Jesus Christ… and the light we carry within our hearts is the Light of Jesus… to be shared with others, no matter how dark it gets. Perhaps our Christmas mandate for 2020 is to slow down, and take more time to enter more deeply into the story of Jesus’ coming among us, the same Jesus who gives us ‘light and hope’ no matter how dark it may seem. Hunger, wars or even pandemic… Emmanuel… God is with us!…