“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who lived in a deep shadow
a light has shone…
For a child is born for us, a son given to us…”
- Isaiah 9:2-6
Christmastide is here. In the signs and symbols around us the holidays are taking shape with excitement and expectation. The traditions and images inspire the spirit of the season – of giving, of hope and of joy.
The rich imagery of light and darkness, prevalent in many faith traditions of the world, is particularly meaningful for us during this special season. For Christians, Advent is well underway, four weeks of preparation for the coming of Christ. In great hope we await Emmanuel, “God With Us,” to bring us closer to an era of peace, joy, and justice for all people. Advent reminds us that what lies ahead is a time when people of goodwill will see a great light – the light of hope manifest in the Incarnation. It will be a time when darkness, fear, and injustice give way to the light of goodness and all that is right in creation.
The themes of light and darkness carry through in the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which will take place December 20-28. Hanukkah marks the triumph of light over darkness and commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews of Judah triumphed over their oppressors. The Festival of Lights reminds our Jewish sisters and brothers that the light of justice and peace will indeed reign over the darkness of conflict and injustice.
In our faith traditions, the light symbolizes the best of who we are and hope for blessings to come. This holiday season, let us focus on the lights in our lives, those glimmers of the divine shining through darkness. Let us also strive to be a light by responding to those who suffer illness, injustice, and economic problems. I pray that during this holy season the light of peace and hope shines on you and your families. At Christmas Mass, I shall remember the Santa Clara community, thanking God for all of you and asking God’s blessing now and in the new year.
Michael E. Engh, S.J.