and Christmas 2000
People that walked in darkness have seen a great light. ..•"
--Isaiah 9:2 (Revised English Bible)
display of seasonal lighting is something of a compensation for the
darkness which overtakes us at this time of year. I love the advent wreath
tradition which has us gradually increasing our light as we move toward
the feast of Christmas. This practice conveys something of the notion of
the darkness attempting, but not succeeding in, the overcoming of the true
light of Christ. However, I have some sympathy for those who move early to
challenge the winter darkness with those stunning arrays of artificial
lights. Here is an emphatic and clear protest that darkness does not dim
our spirits. The heavens seem to present yet another view. Shorter days
mean an earlier appearance ofthe stars. The crisp air makes them glisten
with a frosty vigour at this time of year. The lights are on in heaven.
The one who dwells there will also dwell here among us. The enduring
presence of God is symbolized by a light in the darkness. It is a powerful
image in places where the brightness of the day contrasts, so completely,
with the darkness of night. Such symbolism is well understood in our part
of the world at this time of year. Is it not clear what Isaiah tells us:
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on
those who lived in a land as dark as death a light has dawned."
of the great accomplishments of Isaiah is the balancing of judgment with
hope and consolation. It is little wonder that Isaiah forms so much of the
Text of Handel's Messiah. Two of the alternative canticles for Morning and
Evening Prayer in The Book o/Common Prayer (pp. 28-29) are from Isaiah.
The Old Testament readings for Christmas, one at each of the three
Eucharists, are from the prophet Isaiah as well. Isaiah tells us in the
above verse, for instance, that the enthronement of a new King would light
the way forward to prosperity and peace. These ancient and venerable
prophecies help us better understand the meaning of the birth of Christ
Jesus. They provide a theme of hope and consolation which is then fleshed
out with presence of God in Christ. May we savour the words as they are
proclaimed during our services this Christmas.
lights of the Christmas season are certainly splendid. How much more
splendid is the radiance ofthe Christ child and all that such a child may