The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
The Icon of the Nativity is a treasure of spiritual learning and insight. All around the edges swirl the events surrounding the birth of Christ: St. Joseph wrestling with the temptation to “put Mary away,” the angels adoring, shepherds tending their sheep, the infant Jesus being given his bath, the Magi bringing their gifts… a kaleidoscopic festival of the Incarnation. Yet, at the still center of this storm of holiness is found the reason for it all: the newborn Christ-child attended by the Blessed Virgin, and those most-privileged animals. The cave in which they reside is a silent, inky black.
This shadowy background stands for the darkness cast over humanity by sin and death. It is this fundamental dis-ease Christ comes into the world to heal. He is the Light of God, and that Light shows forth brightly at the first Christmas, and in every Christmas since. In a few days we will once again gather in the darkness of night to sing the praises of “God-with-us,” Emmanuel. From there we will go forth renewed in the Truth about God and ourselves: God has dispelled the darkness of sin and doubt and we are recipients and messengers of this Good News.
The birth of Christ in the night has another meaning to consider: for the Jews (and for the Church, as well), nightfall is not only the ending of one day: it is the beginning of another. When Jesus was born, it marked the ending of one era – that of humanity’s alienation from God – and the beginning of a New Day of reconciliation. The darkness of this world has been shattered by the Light of Christ. That light resides in each of us through Holy Baptism: cherish it, tend it, and share it this Christmastide and always.
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