In his devotional book, Preparing for Christmas, Richard Rohr writes,
“The darkness will never totally go away… the darkness isn’t going to disappear, but as John’s Gospel says, the light shines on inside of the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it… Our Christian wisdom is to name the darkness as darkness, and the Light as light, and to learn how to live and work in the Light so that the darkness does not overcome us.”
I needed to read Richard’s words. In these days of political, social and religious division, the ongoing tragedies of poverty, hunger and illness, and the hatred, oppression and injustice that still impact too many people, I could easily despair. The darkness of these troubles in the world- and my helplessness amid these troubles- frustrate, grieve and overwhelm me at times.
Understanding that the darkness always has been- and always will be- actually comforts and relieves me. Richard’s words tell me that I don’t need to take on the entire world. No one has ever been able to turn the world into a giant sphere of love on which people share and care for the earth and one another. Nor will I. But this does not mean that I shouldn’t do what I can. Instead, I can refrain from saying with a helpless shrug of my shoulders, “If only I could…” and begin saying with a determined and willing spirit, “Here’s what I can do…”
The light shines on inside of the darkness…
We are called to walk in and through the darkness. We cannot turn our heads, or deny the problems because they make us uncomfortable, or believe our efforts would be futile and just give up. We are called to walk with and serve those in need; to stand up against injustice and to speak for the oppressed; to work for understanding and unity as peaceful people in times of great division.
…and the darkness will not overcome it.
We are called to keep shining with the light of God’s love, while not letting the darkness overcome us. We cannot let our lights dim in the darkness or flicker in the bleakness of the troubles of the world. We cannot let the negativity, gossip, anger, hatred, neglect, despair or apathy of those around us to become our own. When we bear the Light of Christ, especially while we are walking in and through the darkness, the Light will shine more brightly for others to see.
May we never believe that the darkness is so great that we stop being that one small light of love. In John 16:33, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” We WILL have trouble! But he then continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We WILL NOT be alone!
Richard Rohr adds, “We must wait and work with hope inside of the darkness- while never doubting the light that God always is- and that we are, too. That is the narrow birth canal of God into the world- through the darkness and into an ever greater light.”
In this northern hemisphere, this is the season when the night settles in earlier each day. Driving home in the darkness, I am filled with joy by the Christmas displays and lights that brighten my route. Most days I am happy and content. But even on the days when I am weary, discouraged, anxious or overwhelmed, the festive and colorful displays remind me of the goodness of Christmas… of God’s love shown to us in Jesus… of the Light that will always shine, even in the deepest darkness. THIS is the Light of love, hope, joy and peace that we can carry to brighten the lives of others.
Keep shining, dear friends, keep shining.
Excerpts: Rohr, Richard. Preparing for Christmas. St. Anthony Messenger Press. Cincinnati OH 2008