In past Tis the Seasons, I’ve shared many, many holiday stories: family traditions, interesting historical tidbits, heartfelt sentiments, favorite songs, and so on. When faced with writing a post this year, though, writers block hit and it hit HARD. I had lots of ideas, from sharing new memories to fleshing out older stories, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up staring at a blank page. The words just wouldn’t come.
Then, I got thinking about what my friend Rachel said in her post earlier this week about Christmas being a time of light in the darkness and hope when all feels lost. The more I thought about it, the more it felt right. Light in the darkness… what a timely message.
We live in days of darkness, days of sorrow, days of pain, days of disappointment. It’s been a rough year for so many both here in America and abroad. We live in days of horrific war, days of the displacement and death of innocents, days of bombs and destruction. We live in days of intolerance, of cruelty, of fear. We live in days where people are massacred and ostracized for their beliefs, for their cultural heritage, for their orientation, and for their gender. We live in days of doubt and days of deep insecurity where truth and trust cease to exist.
Here, in the midst of darkness, we come into the Christmas season. This time of year means many things to me, most of it centers around the importance of family and cherishing time with the ones I love. But it’s also an important time of faith.
Things are about to get Christian, but bear with me. No matter where you lie on the faith spectrum, I think that the message I’m trying to convey is an important and universal one.
If you live in the Western world, I’m sure you’ve heard the Christian story of Christmas: A virgin birth, angels and shepherds, wise men following stars, and a baby in a manger. At this time of year, we celebrate the coming of the promised savior, the Messiah, the astounding moment in history when the creator God entered his creation as one of us. Emmanuel: God With Us.
As a person of faith, I cannot claim that influence of the Christian faith has always been positive. There have been horrifying atrocities committed in the name of Christianity–from the crusades to the oppression and enslavement of racial others to the Holocaust to modern day discrimination. Nearly every day, I wrestle with the unsavory elements of my faith heritage, trying to reconcile deep disappointment with streamline American Evangelical Christianity with the message of love and truth that Christianity is supposed to stand for. How can a message that is supposed to bring love and hope be used to inflict so much pain?
Ultimately, the hope of my faith is what keeps me going. The world is a dark and dangerous place, but there is light in the darkness and his name is Emmanuel: God With Us. I look to the example of Jesus laid out in the New Testament and I choose to follow in his shoes. I am a deeply broken person, with insecurities and struggles and doubts. I mess up, I fail, and I unintentionally hurt those I care about. But, despite all this, every day I choose to live in the light to the best of my ability.
Jesus came to this world to offer hope to the marginalized, peace to the troubled, healing to the brokenhearted, grace to the lost, life to those in despair, and love to all people. While here on this earth, he gave time and love to the unmentionables of his time–the poor, the sick, the broken, the beggars, the women, the corrupt government officials, the foreign others, the Roman oppressors, and so on.
He came to bring light and, to that light, I choose to cling.
We live in uncertain times. A racist, sexist bigot is about to become the president of the United States. Political tensions are high. Racial tensions are high. War rips Syria apart. Millions of refugees are still homeless. I could go on about the millions around the world living in poverty, the enslaved, those in sexual bondage, but you get the picture.
I am one small person with two small hands. I work at a library in a small town in Minnesota. There is only so much I can do and I’m really still figuring out how I can use my circle of influence to make a difference. But, this Christmas, I choose hope over despair, faith over doubt, love over fear.
An author and blogger I love, Sarah Bessey, puts it this way in her book Out of Sorts:
“I don’t want to be swallowed by the darkness. Nor do I want to be blinded by the beautiful facade. No, I want to be part of a people who see the darkness, know it’s real, and then, then, then, light a candle anyway. And hold that candle up against the wind and pass along our light wherever it’s needed from our own homes to the halls of legislation to the church pulpit to the kitchens of the world.”
This Christmas, no matter what religion (or lack of religion) of you follow, let us join our hands together.
As we go throughout our daily lives, let us choose to show kindness and generosity to those whose paths cross ours.
Let us listen to those with different perspectives and life experiences and show respect, even if we disagree.
Let us light candles and defend the dignity and beauty of every human being.
Let us cling to hope.
Let us be agents of love.