Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 25, 2006
When should the decorations go up?
Christmas lights seem to be twinkling even before Advent
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
For Christians, lights are the most enduring symbol of Christ.
Originally, Christians commemorated the death and resurrection of Christ, the mystery of our salvation. The celebration of Jesus becoming human, that is, the Incarnation, was included for it was all one great event. Sometime in the 300s, Dec. 25 was chosen as the date for the birth of Jesus.
This time of year was an appropriate choice as we too celebrate the coming of the Son of God, victorious over the darkness of sin and evil. Christians in the northern hemisphere are lucky for it is so natural to see Jesus as the light that conquers the darkness at this time of the year.
During Advent and Christmas, as we look at the lights all around us, we hear the voice of Isaiah, the prophet proclaiming, "The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light" (9:2) and "Arise and shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is upon you" (60:1). We see the bright light of the sky as the angels proclaim their "Gloria in excelsis Deo" and the star lighting the way to Bethlehem for the wise men.
We hear the words of John's Gospel referring to Jesus as light: "The light shines on in darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" (1:5) and "the real light which gives light to every person."
Jesus, too, describes himself as the light: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12); "I have come into the world as its light" (John 12:46).
Many symbols celebrate the spirit of peace, hope, love, the joy of giving at Christmas. We help feed the hungry; we give toys to needy children. We send cards to distant friends and gifts to loved ones. We put up Christmas cribs and decorate our churches and homes.
But for Christians, lights are the most enduring symbol of Christ.
At the beginning of the Church year, we light candles on Advent wreaths and we continue with lights to celebrate Christmas. At the Easter Vigil, the paschal candle appears in great solemnity with the proclamation of "Christ the Light." It continues to be lit regularly for 50 days after Easter and on special occasions during the whole Church year.
The light of Christ festivities of Christmas and Easter continue, although in a more subdued way, with the lighting of candles and the reading of Scripture throughout the Church year.
Do we fear that the lights on our trees and our homes resemble too much the commercialism that spews from advertising lights? It need not be so. We have to use our creativity and our sense of the holy in all creation.
We can see in the multitude of glowing lights the numerous descendants, including ourselves, promised to Sarah and Abraham. These lights can also remind us of the multitude of graces God gives us in this season and each day of our lives.
Each light bulb can be seen to represent one of the multitudes of people who walk in the way illuminated by Jesus. Today's light strings continue to shine even when one or more bulbs burn out.
So too, for us. When one dies, those who remain keep shining in this world proclaiming and living the light of Christ for all the world to see. In this way, what seem like profane celebrations of Christmas can be a revelation of Christ who brought forgiveness and hope, peace and love, joy and giving 2,000 years ago.
As Pope Benedict reminded us in last year's Christmas message "The God-with-us, born in Bethlehem is the star of our lives." Let us ever keep the light of that star burning brightly in our hearts so that its brilliance may draw the world to recognize the Son of God.
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