Christmas Sunday: Shadows and Light

By Sandra Hasenauer

Christmas Lights by Ryan Padilla, Creative Commons Permissions

Christmas Lights by Ryan Padilla, Creative Commons Permissions

Isaiah 9:2: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.

Luke 2:9-13 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

It’s Christmas! And it’s Sunday! What a wonderful concurrence of worshipful events! Both days celebrate an end to anticipation and a beginning of a new life with Christ. Both give us the opportunity to give thanks for the gift of reconciliation, mercy, and grace that we are given through the infant born and the man crucified and raised again.

But it’s important to remember that this in-breaking of lightness into darkness (to use biblical terms) doesn’t mean God is only present in the light. No, indeed. Our very hope in Christ comes from the fact that we are able to trust God in the shadow as much as we trust God in the light. We are able to give over our worrisome circumstances, our troublesome situations, our fears, disappointments, and all of those other things shadowing our hearts and minds over to God, because we have the promise of the baby born. The Luke passage reminds us that the glory of the Lord comes in the midst of fear–that we are assured God’s presence will ultimately bring justice, comfort, and peace.

There is a lot to be worried about in the United States and in Puerto Rico right now–civil difficulties, economic fears, walls rather than bridges, harsh rhetoric, anger, separation. But our God is Immanuel–God with us–the divine come as a human baby, vulnerable and born to a vulnerable people. Immanuel–God with us–who walked on human feet and wore human clothing and spent every waking moment with humans, knowing what it means to be hurt, to be disappointed, to be living in this world. Immanuel–God with us–calling us and walking with us in both shadow and light.

The light brings us hope, but the shadow brings us a call to be partners with God in building Beloved Community in our world. We feel God’s calling in our hearts, alongside the outpouring of grace and mercy we need to heed that call.

This isn’t a traditional Christmas carol, but it sums up our hope in Christmas day.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

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