December 1, 2012
The time lapse photography is brief but stunning. As Hurricane Sandy bears down on Manhattan, a camera shows half the city suddenly plunged into almost total darkness, with only a few car headlights probing the blackness. But the bright lights of the unaffected half shine on, even more brightly. In moments, more than eight million homes and businesses found themselves without power. For many it was a condition that would endure for weeks, not hours. It was not, of course, the worst problem – some lost their lives, many lost their homes and everything they owned. But life in the darkness is difficult and disorienting, dangerous and even deadly. Yet, even though it was prolonged for many, it was only temporary. What a relief when the lights come back on and life returns to some semblance of normalcy!
There is a darkness far worse than physical darkness. Those who have struggled with depression struggle to tell us what it is like to feel an overwhelming sense of darkness. And there is the darkness of grief, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of failure, the darkness of fear, the darkness of guilt. That is why one of the great symbols of the Christmas story is light, God’s light, piercing into the darkness of our fallen world and the darkness of our broken lives.
No one says it better than John: at our Lord’s birth, “the genuine light was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Light is embodied in a person, the one who could say, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He who made light and the lights came as light to dissipate spiritual ignorance by revealing truth, to dispel despair by inspiring hope, and to drive out moral darkness by bringing forgiveness. Christmas lights don’t just decorate our houses and trees; they point us to he who is the Light!