At this time of year, Gay and I find ourselves buoyed along by the festive spirit of the season. I approach the six-month mark in my new role as Head Pastor of Bryn Athyn Church and it’s been wonderful getting to know you all a bit better. Our family has enjoyed taking in all the festive sights and sounds of the holidays, and getting to experience the beloved customs and traditions of this town which many of you have known since childhood. Our family feels blessed to be so warmly welcomed and wrapped into the cheerful activities of this loving church community.
As Christmas Day fast approaches, I think of how this particular day on the calendar falls just after the Winter Solstice. It is when the light of day is the shortest, when we experience the most darkness of the entire year. But it also marks the beginning of something new. Each day that follows is longer. Each morning promises a longer stretch of light and warmth than the day before. Such was the state of the world into which the Lord was born. Isaiah speaks of it as “thick darkness.” Spiritually speaking, it was the coldest and darkest day in human history because people had lost their way; they didn’t know how to love one another anymore. And yet as news of the Lord’s birth spread, a new, spiritual light began to dispel the darkness in people’s minds. Fear and suspicion was replaced with hope and trust. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said, “for I bring you good tidings” (Luke 2:10). These good tidings, this good news, ushered in a new era of hope and promise “for once fear is removed, hope is at hand” (Arcana Caelestia 2694).
While we are not always aware of His presence and don’t always understand why things happen the way they do, let us remain confident that our Lord and Savior is still “at hand,” offering us a spiritual compass that points in the direction of hope and promise, and purpose and meaning. The Lord is forever at our side, especially when we feel alone, afraid or uncertain. So let us make room for the Lord this Christmas, remembering that our days will grow longer. Let the light replace the darkness. And like the shepherds, let us be filled with a desire to join the angels in heaven by spreading the good news, by offering to all people peace and goodwill.