I am writing my Christmas Message for Anglican Life on October 13th due to the early deadline for print publication. Here in Corner Brook it is a beautiful sunny day, with the bright sunlight illuminating the fall foliage colours. It is nature in all its glory.
A few weeks ago, I was in Port aux Basques, Rose Blanche, Isle aux Morts, Fox-Roost, and Margaree. With the local Anglican clergy, we walked amidst the destroyed houses that once were safe and comfortable family homes. Nature revealed a more sinister look two weeks ago than it does on this beautiful autumn day.
These are two different sides of the same coin. In some ways we have here a metaphor for human life itself: good days and bad; ups and downs; joys and sorrows.
Christmas is not an escape from life’s difficulties. In fact, Christmas is the divine response to the darkness and suffering of the world. It announces good news of great joy and spreads a bright light to eliminate the darkness.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
In this life there will be good days and bad. There will be successes and failures. There will be gratitude and regret. There will be gains and losses.
Christmas acknowledges the downside of human existence but also points us to the upside. It is God’s coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, whose birth gives us joy, and whose life, death and resurrection gives us victory over sin and the grave. The deeper meaning of Christmas catapults us over the obstacles and into the promised land.
Our Lord was no stranger to life’s struggles. Indeed, Jesus underwent extreme suffering, even death on a cross. God is not absent from or indifferent to the darkness and pain we go through. The incarnation is God entering into our deepest hurts and sorrows to express unconditional love for us. Stepping into our shoes, God knows our blistered feet.
God did so not only to empathize with us but to change our predicament. Coming into the world, God resolves our plight and brings us out of darkness into light, out of death into life, and out of sorrow into joy.
Christmas is in many respects the beginning of that transformation. Easter is its triumph. Christ’s return will be its consummation.
Let this Christmas be a time of beginning, of seeing anew that we are more than flesh and blood and bone. We are also spirit, with eternal light and love dwelling within us. We are journeying to a destiny that makes the best here even greater and the worst here transformed by victory and triumph.
I know that for many of us this Christmas may not be the happiest. Some of us will be out of our family home because of Storm Fiona. Some will be mourning loss of a loved one. Others may be alone for the first time at Christmas because of divorce. Others may be in a shelter because of domestic violence. Some may be on the street. Still others will be in the safety of their home surrounded by love and plenty.
Christmas will be met again this year with a mixture of good and bad. Yet, for all of us, rich and poor, God will be seeking room in our hearts and a place of welcome among us. Letting God in will make the worst situation better and the best situation more meaningful. The result will be a world more aligned with God’s eternal purpose for it.
May this Christmas lighten the darkness and increase love among us.
+John, Western Newfoundland