A Season of Darkness and Light

Some years ago I was driving around Chicago with a visiting friend, showing off the energy and variety of my favorite city. It was the Christmas season, and festive decorations were everywhere—on stores, on streets and on many, if not most, of the homes we drove past.

One corner property was especially festive. I could almost feel the exuberance with which it had been decorated. The focal point was a life-sized manger scene with all the usual trimmings—baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Wise Men and assorted animals.

No angels singing on high, though. Instead, parked on the roof of the manger, sat Santa Claus in all his red-suited glory, with a sleigh full of gifts and the requisite eight reindeer—nine, actually, because Rudolph was cheerfully leading the pack.

There is so much literally wrong with that scene it’s hard to know where to start. Rudolph is from one holiday story, Santa and company from another. The shepherds and Magi never appear in the same biblical story—in fact the manger itself can only be found in Luke.

The whole display was, of course, decorated with hundreds of brightly-colored lights. For me, its whole holiday message was expressed in the glow of those lights and the obvious love with which it had all been assembled.

Some may be concerned (or judgmental) about distortions they perceive in how we commemorate this annual birthday. But Christmas has never been about consistency or accuracy. It’s always about the sometimes chaotic ways in which elements clash and embrace and express, Christmas after Christmas, year after year. We cheerfully take our favorite bits from various stories and mash them together with wild abandon. The Truth is not in the details; it’s in the abandon.

Love and Light are also the spiritual energies that link our Christmas observances with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati and the many other spiritual celebrations focused on the precious light and mysterious shadows that mark the Winter Solstice. The stories are different; the energy is the same.

Love and Light were to become the central themes of the ministry the adult Jesus would share with the world. “Love one another,” he taught (John 13:34); and the writer of 1 John recognizes the simplicity of Jesus’s message: “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1John 1:5).

And so it’s only fitting that we spend our Advent appreciating the Love and Light of Christmas. Think of these spiritual thoughts as lights on a great Unity tree, under which we all gather in an energy of infinite Love. And know that I am enfolding you this blessed season in a Solstice-deep energy of Light, appreciation and joy. Blessings!

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