Advent Darkness

It was almost a comfort to see our Christmas tree without lights and trimmings. Almost. It just grated at me a little bit, with the town decked out in lights and all, to have such dimness in our home. I told my boys we have to buy some new lights because the old strands are getting so faulty. They’re probably ten years old — is that a long life? But I was holding out, avoiding the dreaded act. I was remembering what I’d learned eight years ago about the production of many of America’s Christmas lights. A little research landed a year-old article reporting the same. Stories of forced labor are hard to shake.

I long for the light, not bottled up in miniature bulbs but the Light from the manger who lit up the whole world. He brings freedom to us — we who buy chains of lights and we who choose not to, and He brings freedom to those forced to assemble them.

Oh, Light of the world, come!

How can I be merry and dance about the tree in a flurry of paper and ribbons? How can joy be the resounding cry in this thickness of blackest darkness? A slave at work for my freedoms shivers me deep inside, and I’ve pressed myself past apathy. I can taste the injustice.

As we cry out “Justice!” and “Freedom!”, where are you, Emmanuel?

It was a night of injustice that escorted Jesus into the world. A woman whose every instinct must have been crying out for shelter and comfort was offered a barn, likely with nothing to use for cleaning up the mess of birth. The Baby pressed hard into her cervix. Anyone have any towels? What did Mary and Joseph do with the placenta? Did they eat it? Give it to an animal?

Born to the woman who said “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1.38), Jesus also demanded no justice; He brought it instead. No, more than justice, He brought gifts of grace.

But where are they, King Jesus? Hidden in the darkness? In the starkness of an unlit tree?

Let it be to me. Those are words of the humble — a mother who accepts squalor as grace. Whatever God has for me is enough, is great and blessed, she testifies (Luke 1.48-49). Let it be to me.

And on me, too, the gifts of grace have descended. Instead of a wishlist, my boys and I made another list — “Gifts We Already Have,” prompted by Ann. The names of gifts are flowing out of my sons’ mouths, and there you are — Jesus — written in big letters at number 30. In our bounty of gifts I wait, Holy Spirit here in me, prompting me toward acts of justice. But not in any obligatory sense. In my freedom, He allows me to offer justice to the prisoner.

The prayer “Let it be to me” sent the Holy Spirit, not only Emmanuel — God with us — but the constant Comforter — God in us, God through us. He was better than we all expected. There is no longer need to long for the more, more, more of the consumerist Christmas when the Most has already arrived. We may still light our trees in celebration, but a brighter Light has dawned in our world. The sunrise has visited us (Luke 1.78).

In the end, I do hang lights on the tree — the old ones with burnt out bulbs. Here a patch of light, and there a patch. The broken can remind me of what we already have. We will celebrate –hearts full! — in the coming Christmas. We can!  Our strings of lights give promise of illumination — one night and winter and imprisonment will not snuff out any longer.

Let it be to me, Jesus. Your light is already piercing the blackest darkness.

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