Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Advent and Christmas 2000

 

'"The People that walked in darkness have seen a great light. .." --Isaiah 9:2 (Revised English Bible)

 

The 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."

 

One 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.

 

The 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 bring.

 

Archdeacon Rod Gillis