The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
- John 1:5
It’s a dark time of year. It just is, at least this far north. Within a few weeks of the longest night of the year, the shadows seem to creep deeper. The sun seems further away. Slowly but surely the status quo seems to freeze into place.
|Lights and dark at the Lincoln Park Zoo makes for an odd, if |
bewildering, contrast. 'Tis the season.
And at most universities, this dark time of year just happens to coincide with the end of the semester.
Sitting at the cafeteria at Roosevelt University’s Wabash Building, I observed a sort of dry anxiety among students. It’s like they’re too little butter spread over too much bread. Jobs claim many hours to pay tuition and other bills, and classes claim many more hours. Sleep comes in naps between study sessions and take-home finals. A “personal” life seems like a cruel mockery, and the future is even more frightening.
And oh! The irony of Daley Plaza’s Christmas Village and Lincoln Park Zoo’s winter wonderland.Wander into Macy’s material maze of festive magic that appeared before the Halloween cobwebs had been put away. Get a cup of coffee while an electronic jazz band contemporizes an Irving Berlin classic. Okay, will you just stop trying to force joy, dammit?!
We in the Church know these things. We feel them, too. Especially during this season we anxiously look toward an empty crèche, searching for the boy-king who will brighten the darkness with all his Baby Jesus Powers. How long, Lord? How long?
It feels to me like we’re stuck at the foot of the cross. We’re looking for some miracle on the mountaintop, but all we see is death. Perhaps we forget that the miracle of the resurrection didn’t occur until the darkness was perfect in the sealed grave. We prefer the open air of Calvary to the claustrophobia of the empty tomb. We feel like we have more control if we can just have a visible escape route.
I’m often surprised that the gospel reading for Christmas Day is the first chapter of John, but within a few weeks of the darkest day of the year, it seems so appropriate. We so desperately need light—in our final exams, in our finances, in our overworked and underappreciated bodies—and we celebrate the light on Christmas.
This is the message we in the Church have to offer. We call it like it is. We see death around us, we see the darkness, but the darkness did not and does not overcome the light. We’re scared of the dark, too, but our hope is greater than our fear.
So yes, it’s dark out. All the lights on the Magnificent Mile can’t stop that. However, the light that the darkness cannot overcome doesn’t come from the retailers. The light that truly brightens the dark world doesn’t come from spotless resumes and transcripts. The light to which baptizers testify comes from inside the still, deep darkness of the tomb.
And then that light—unexpectedly—rolls away the stone.