I am legally blind. With contacts or glasses I can see about 20/30. I have about -14 in one eye and -15 in the other. I have worn glasses since I was 7 mons old. My parents tell me that when I got glasses my whole life changed, I waved to everyone on the street and I would cry when my glasses had to be removed. I was happy to sleep with them, bathe with them. I never pulled them off or try hurt them. I may have been far too young to articulate it verbally but I knew which view of the world was better.
For the first seven months of my life, everything would have been a blur. My first Christmas was when I was 2 months old. My favorite place to be that year was under the tree with the room lights dim. My Mom tells me I would sit there for hours. Sometime I still like to do this. In the dark without my glasses I cannot make out anything more than shadows, but lights shine like glowing orbs. Christmas lights on a tree or in the case of my little poor starving resident flat around my window are many glowing orbs together each moving slowing as my poor eyeballs try to focus and cannot. Together making a beautiful piece of abstract art that never gets old. Light in my darkness, in my blindness.
Of all the things Hallmark, Matel and Wal Mart have done to the Incarnation, they got one part right despite of themselves: Light. You can call it X-mas , you can call it pagan, you can cite all the good Egyptian and Greek mythology that went into the choice of Dec 25 and and never mention Christ but if you are transfixed by the lights, you are closer to the heart of Christianity than you know.
The story of Christ’s birth is dirty and dark, it might be rated R. Its about poverty, oppression, sex, near-stoning for adultery, a dangerous journey, child birth in cave with animal dung with no birth attendant, its about smelly, poor outcasts having visions of angels (bet that went over well with the religious authorities…can you say pysch admission?) and then it ends with the flight of a young family back into poverty with the wails of mothers holding the bodies of their murdered sons who were unlucky enough to be born in the wrong year echoing in the night. Its not cute. Its certainly not a children’s story. Its raw, its painfully human and really its rather uncomfortable. I mean who is excited about worshiping a dirty, smelly baby in a cave with animal dung whose parents are oppressed religious fanatics who everyone thinks is crazy. Its really not surprising that we gloss over it or create simpler, easier to contemplate stories of grace like a St Nicholas (a nice guy who gave out presents to poor kids a couple of centuries ago), or Dr. Seuss.
Despite this its my favorite story in all of Christianity. Not because I like presents or pumpkin pie or vacation…This is the story that sets Christianity apart from every other world religion. This is the story that ties the narrative of scripture together. This is the story about the light coming back
Light is something that cuts across religions and pagan traditions but it clearly claimed by Christianity as a symbol of not just hope or prayer or even wisdom but of God himself coming into the world.
What other faith has God having such a human experience? God comes in human form in ancient mythology and in some Eastern Traditions but never in such a humble, dirty, R-rated form. Then there is the light…In the beginning there was light that is how the bible begins and for much of the Old Testament we see human beings searching for the light, testing the light or completely missing the light. They live in darkness most of the time and no amt of human striving can seem to ever fix it. So then first long anticipated he prophets and then in the gospels the light of the world comes to earth to be the light for the people who can’t seem to find a way out of their wretched darkness.
so light a candle, a luminary, or hang a string of lights. And let it shine in your blindness, in your darkness and realize in our raw, horrible at times human experiences on earth rather it be poverty, the brink of war, homelessness or oppression-grace and redemption arrived amongst those very circumstances.
let there be light.