The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light
Questions are often put to Christians today about the effectiveness of what happened in Bethlehem, whether what we celebrate tonight has any real fruit to show for itself. Many will ask Christians “aren’t we still the same people before and after Christ?” Aren’t we still haunted by famine and war and violence and poverty and pride? Some people will even grant us the notion of sin, only to say that it doesn’t look like Christ has done a whole lot about it.
This line of questioning, whether one is Christian or not, is a display of the arrogance of our times – assuming we know what life must have been like in all other times prior to our own. People today often subconsciously assume that they know what it was like to live 2,000 years ago, that they know what it was like to be a human being 2,012 years ago, when in fact we DON’T know what it was like. We don’t have the slightest bit of personal data about what it was like to live without Christ or His Church. We don’t know, and just because the drama goes on seemingly unaltered to the skeptical eye does not mean that the story of humanity did not experience a seismic shift in Bethlehem.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light – when we read the Scriptures we see that darkness covered the land of our ancestors who inhabited that part of the time line known as B.C. There was no way to personal redemption and people knew it. The Scriptures speak over and over again about how the Jewish nation could only retreat further and further into a slavish following of the law of their fathers, but no release was to be found. Animals were slaughtered in the temple continuously such that blood flowed from the temple, but all knew it was not enough. The people indeed walked in darkness – they knew they were lost but they could not save themselves from themselves.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. We don’t experience the birth of Christ as a seismic shift, we don’t experience the birth of Christ as a turning of the world upside down because it is all we know. We were born in the era of the light and so the darkness that our ancestors stumbled in is completely foreign to us. Thanks be to God that we only know life where Christ has come.
It is not enough, though, to be born in the era of Christ the light, it is no credit to us that our birthday happens to have an A.D. on the end – if all we do is see the light but do not act on it, do not draw near to it, do not yearn for it, do not consume the light and allow ourselves to be lit up from the inside like fireflies then the day will come when we will wail in agony, first and foremost because we forsook such a prize. If the light scares us and we keep our distance, we will walk in darkness because Christ the true light is not something to be studied, He is not a painting in the Louve, he is not a masterpiece to be gawked at and admired from afar, he is to be internalized and consumed.
Now at this Mass invisibly, but one day soon for all to see, the curtain of heaven will be drawn back and the choirs will be heard again saying Glory to God in the Highest. Let us not gawk at Christ but invite him in to our lives this night and always.