I’m a sucker for Christmas movies. Every year, the day after Thanksgiving our family pulls out the well-known Christmas movies such as Polar Express, Elf, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Surprisingly, these Christmas movies and others dabble in issues of faith, hope, and deeper meaning within ritual. However, each of them falls short of the true hope found in Christmas. Here we see the hint of an unfulfilled desire–the desire to believe in something pure and good and undefiled by the greediness of man. Perhaps the problem is that our own Christmas promise is not articulated in a way that speaks to this hope–we do not adequately express the anticipation of the season. Instead, our Christmas message is a checking off of the list of nativity events, stripped of the powerful context of human need.
We enjoy Christmas movies because they have an aroma of the supernatural despite being entrenched in the daily quagmire of life. We are offered a taste of the divine through our rituals and family celebrations. The phrase “peace on Earth and goodwill towards man” fills us with a longing for a world where dreams come true and the hurt and pain of life are erased. This longing is real, and it is the place where we can truly begin to consider the incarnation of Christ.
It Begins With Longing
Before we can offer the great news of God becoming man, we must depict the longing we all have for something perfect. Christmas is an excellent time to do this! With Christmas around the corner, we all have a list of things we would like to own (be honest). We imagine the perfect Christmas day spent with family or friends, or we mourn what we know cannot be. In every hope, there is a longing and an unmet desire. What if we extended that longing to our world entire? What would be the perfect world? What would it look like and how would people act? We might imagine the things that would happen in order to create a place of beauty and peace. Let’s not stop there–what about ourselves? What would it take to make us be the people we wish we could be? What would change to make us people of peace and joy?
It is in this moment that true longing is awakened because we understand that the change we crave is not just for the world, but it is for us. It is here that the mystery and glory of the incarnation come to us, for now, we can see Christmas is not about what happens out there–it is very much about what happens within us.
Light in the Darkness
To imagine this visually, I want us to picture a world cloaked in darkness–a darkness so deep that you cannot even see your hand in front of you. To borrow Byron’s description from his apocalyptic poem “Darkness”:
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Now imagine in this infinite darkness, a spark of light. Consider how overwhelming this tiny light would be in a sea of darkness. What if this light grew and grew until all was like day? How glorious would that be? How awe-inspiring?
When God created the world, darkness was over the face of the deep. He spoke “Let there be light” and the light burst into existence. C.S. Lewis captures this in Magician’s Nephew when describing the creation of Narnia:
The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out–single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world.
This was not the last time such light was to break into the world. Instead, John draws a parallel between this momentous occasion in history and Christ’s birth. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 ESV).
A Reminder Every Day
Every morning when the sun rises to dispel the darkness, we are invited to once again consider the impact light makes in our world. God began everything with the beautiful display of created light and then comes Himself as light incarnate to a world in darkness. The psalmist recognizes this and states in Psalm 130:6, “my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than the watchmen for the morning.” They wait for the morning because the morning is a time of hope and a reminder that they have survived the night.
On Christmas day over two thousand years ago, the Son arose and brought with him a promise of peace and safety. His light still shines for those who have eyes to see. This Christmas, consider the light. As you gaze on your tree and your homes adorned with the living example of light bringing beauty and surprise in the darkness, consider that the light has come. Isaiah prophesies this event several hundreds of years prior when he says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9: 2 ESV)
Let this thought help us anticipate the wonder of Christmas morning when we celebrate the true Christmas light that is still shining.