Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-5, 9-14
If it is something of a cliche to characterize Christmas as joyful, cliches exist for good reasons! It may also be commonplace to distinguish joy from happiness; that, too, is valid, though there’s no reason why joy can’t spill over into happiness.
I pray that is our experience today. We could insure that by allowing ourselves to be grateful, not as a forced attitude but by looking at our experience against the broadest horizon possible. That is what this morning’s Gospel does. It removes our perspective from petty concerns and even puts our struggles and fears and darkness against the horizon, firmly within the ambiance of divine light, unconquerable light.
However we understand light, we humans experience light as a pulsating illumination that radiates through space and reveals the objects it touches. The Prologue to John’s Gospel that I’ve just read to you tells me that God is like that. God may be self-sufficient but God will not remain self-contained. Thus our faith describes God as a Trinity of persons, an exchange of relationships and not an isolated monad.
God is not an elitist, shining only on likeness; God seeks what is unlike God–not just ourselves but all of creation. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for example, that God would be all in all. It is as if God is so passionate about us that God meets us at our own level. To meet us, God radically enters our experience, not, perhaps as we’d prefer–with divine power yanking us out of our limitations–but as God sees best. God enters our limitations, even death itself. And yet, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Even there God is one with us, not removing our fear or sorrow or darkness but empowering us to be confronted by them and grow beyond them. Isn’t that, indeed, good news?
There in our human struggle, we can meet God from within, fulfilling one of the deepest, perhaps most unacknowledged longing:…to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God.
At the same time, God knows that our longing, that dissatisfaction that makes us stretch beyond ourselves, usually seeks fulfillment in what is outside ourselves. There too, perhaps, there most importantly, God came to meet us in Jesus the Christ. And in Christ, God still comes to meet us. God comes to us as another human being, as the Other who could love us, who could be loved; who would challenge us, heal us, support us–who could pull us out of ourselves to the point of sacrificing ourselves. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…
Whether we look within ourselves or beyond ourselves, the divine light, the living Word of God is there in a personal way. We are not abandoned; we are not hopeless; we can do better, ever better, with God’s help.
May the joy of our innate dignity, created and restored by God, be our communion with God and may that communion radiate joy and hope to the world around us.