By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

As I read over the Scripture passages for Christmas midnight Mass, I could not help but go back in my mind to an image that has stayed with me since the visit to Haiti: the image of darkness pierced by light. In many parts of that land there is no electricity. Every evening after nightfall there are many regions with absolutely no light. People too numerous to count walk in darkness. It is, literally, a land of deep shadow. Occasionally, though, in a hovel or tent you could see a flicker of a candle flame – the darkness pierced by a light that enabled the people around it to see.

Here, too, in our so-called First World, light is needed. We experience the darkness of a spiritual poverty, of a life from which God is eclipsed; the deep shadows of moral confusion, in which what is wrong is celebrated as good; the black night of homelessness, violence, addictions, family breakdown, unemployment and so on. Differently from the people of Haiti, yet no less truly, we are a people walking in darkness. We need a light to pierce it so that we, also, can see again.

Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of darkness – on them light has shone.” This message of hope is directed not only at the people for whom it was first written thousands of years ago, but also at us. Then it was a promise of what was to come; today the Church announces that promise as fulfilled. Isaiah linked the coming of the light with the birth of a child: “For a child has been born for us, a son given us.” The Gospel announces this child to be the one born of the Virgin Mary: “and she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger….” With this birth the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds keeping watch nearby. The light has come in the child born in Bethlehem.

Why is he the light? As St. Paul puts it, in Jesus, the grace of God has appeared. Jesus is the very Son of God, who has assumed our human nature. There is no darkness in God, only light, so in Jesus we can see. In him we see the truth of God’s love and mercy. In this light, we also see the truth of ourselves: God’s beloved children in need of rescue from the darkness we bring upon ourselves through sinfulness. As we celebrate the birth of our saviour, let us offer to him any areas of darkness in our own lives - fear, anxiety, guilt, despair – and ask him to dispel it by the light of his love and mercy so that we might know the hope and peace he came from heaven to bring.

Merry Christmas!