How appropriate to hear the Christ described as the light shining in the darkness when we’re just emerging from the shortest days of the year. It’s no accident that we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord in such a season which may help us understand better the mystery of the Word of God become flesh.
When you see the winter landscape, look beyond the bare trees, the dry grasses, the dead leaves or the stillness. Frogs and turtles may burrow in the mud beneath the water, their breathing suspended, their hearts barely beating; bears and woodchucks may hibernate, but it’s an investment in a return to life. Asleep, black bears will give birth and their blind cubs instinctively begin to nurse. White tail deer mate now so their fawns will be born into kinder weather. Some bees will spend their winter life-span shivering to generate enough heat to keep the hive alive. Even beneath the still surface of the snow, voles tunnel corridors between their nests and storage places, scurrying back and forth. It’s as if nature is winding up a hidden spring that will release growth and fruitfulness in the season to come.
Despite appearances of arrested life, there’s vitality accumulating beneath the surface.
In a similar way, the Word of God works silently, beneath the surface of our lives. In becoming flesh, the Word does not sweep away tragedies, frustrations or defeats, but takes them as his own to transfigure them.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The light hasn’t banished the darkness but the darkness can no longer blind us. The light doesn’t replace hope or faith but provokes us to grow in both hope and faith. That necessary alternation of light and dark germinates the seed.
This is no easy enterprise; the struggle remains. I have to still engage the conflict—but it is no longer just mine. It is now part of the victory of the Lamb of God who opens portals to new horizons, even as his death opens the fullness of life.