2017 has been a hard year for a lot of people. We’ve seen hurricanes ravage Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. We’ve seen mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas. There has been a deluge of allegations of sexual misconduct from all quarters of national life. We have lived with threats of nuclear war over our heads. And our national politics has been a complete mess.
If Advent is about waiting for the light to come, it would seem that we certainly have had a whole lot of darkness to wait in. Yet, I was thinking about the context of the Christmas story and would say that there was plenty of darkness that they could talk about as well. The Jesus story we celebrate, when you think about it, is not especially cheery - a poverty stricken family living under a power hungry king in the vassal state of a controlling empire, forced to travel miles at the very end of Mary’s pregnancy, so that they might be registered in order for purposes of paying a burdensome tax, only to find that there is nowhere to stay, and finally giving birth in the stink and filth of a stable.
This is the backdrop of our Christmas story. It is in the midst of all of this our Christmas story takes place – angels singing their praises, shepherds, the star, and the magi. It is in the middle of all this dark that we see the light. It is in all of this that the savior is born. It is in this that we find Jesus, the Christ.
Yet as I was thinking about the story, it is not as if after Jesus is born everything is all of a sudden all good. It is not a very Hollywood ending. The light of Christmas morning lasts a very short time. The magi warn the holy family of the threat that Herod is, and they escape to Egypt, and Herod kills all the children of Bethlehem. And Jesus’ life is hard as well, mired in conflict with political and religious leaders; so much so that he is executed on a cross.
This is the story that we tell each year. The story doesn’t promise a happy ever after. It itself is a story of light in the dark. As I thought about it I came to see that what this story really offers is a paradigm for life. It offers a way of seeing – though there is darkness there is also light. There is always light.
Though world leaders threaten each other with weapons of mass destruction, there are also those who struggle diligently for peace, and each day the promise of new life. Though there are madmen who will shoot and kill the innocent, there are also those who are willing to die to protect others. Though the stories of sexual abuse surface daily, the veil of silence that has served to protect sexual predators seems to be lifting. Though millions have been affected by natural disaster, tens of millions have donated to try and lift these people out of their suffering.
This is light in the darkness. This is what the Christmas story is all about. And what this story assures us is that in all of this, in the bad and the good, in the darkness and in the light, that God is with us. God is always with us. And to this I say Hallelujah! Amen.
Rev. Donald Hanna is the pastor of the Alamosa Presbyterian Church.