God’s light shines, the darkness retreats
By Shawn Reeves
Nativity of the Lord/Dec. 25
At the Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89:4-5,16-17,27,29; Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Matthew 1:1-25
Mass During the Night: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Mass at Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Psalm 97:1,6,11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
Mass During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4,5-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
Darkness spills over the world as autumn comes to a close and winter looms, crowding our once bright evenings and pinching our days into those few, precious hours iconic of winter days. Darkness, that slow and patient invader, methodically chips away the dominion of light, claiming more and more of its borders, until light is forced to recoil into that small district of the day that darkness permits it. Light’s once mighty empire of summer evenings has collapsed. The principality of darkness has taken its place.
But just when it seems the reign of cold darkness will be unending, light rallies its forces and resists, steadfastly reclaiming its domain, one winter day at a time. There is certain harmony in the Church memorializing the birth of Christ around those days of the annual drama of light beginning its gradual displacement of darkness. In this time, all of nature along with the Church declares in eager expectation — “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
From Isaiah’s pronouncement that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” to John’s exhortation, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world,” the imagery of the transfer or reign from darkness to light has been a principal image of God infusing his presence into our midst, most vividly in the coming of Christ.
TRUE GOD, TRUE MAN
In darkness our circumstances are unclear, our surroundings vague. In absolute darkness, one cannot even see oneself, a dark specter to one’s own eyes. And in darkness the face of God remains obscured to the soul. Fear settles in and perches upon the heart.
It is for this reason that the angels bringing news of Christ’s birth first announce, “Do not be afraid. . . . I proclaim to you good news of great joy.” The one “through whom [the Father] created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory” has arrived. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” God’s light has dawned, “full of grace and truth.” Because “we saw his glory” our circumstances are illumined, a new dignity is made clear, and the identity and love of God are more perfectly revealed.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . What came to be through him was life.” Life cannot persist in darkness. Without light, it crumbles and decays. The moment “the Word became flesh” in the womb of Mary, a new era of life appeared, for “this life was the light of the human race.”
On Christmas morning, in the child Jesus, is illumined the depth of God’s pursuit of the human family — so loved by Him that He would wed “the very imprint of His being” with our humanity, Jesus Christ true God and true man.
Today our hearts should announce with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” “For a child is born to us, a son is given us” who is “far superior to the angels.” Today is revealed “the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
The light of God shines forth, and the darkness retreats.
SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family attend St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Thomasboro.