Christmas Eve 2018
I am happy to be here with you, here in the Gesu, in this place of light. These days it has been difficult to sleep. And I know sleep has eluded so many as well. Infants have a way of waking us up, of waking us through the night.
This dark episode, this darkness is far from over. Like you, I have been battered with all sorts of emotions inside: anger, grief, fear, despair and confusion. Even as evil was compounding evil without mercy, relentlessly, men and women of goodwill, you, came forward to assure us of your prayers and active concern and love. Thank you. You are the people on whom God’s favor rests (as the angels proclaim in tonight’s Gospel).
We are the people to whom God’s glory has been revealed. Paul writes us through Titus [in the second reading], we are the people for whom our savior Jesus Christ gave himself “to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”
This resting of God’s favor on us can be difficult to discern in times of darkness. But it is also during such times when this alighting of God’s love and favor on us can be most luminous.
Because of each other’s hope and faith and love, for the sake of our children, we cannot let these dark emotions get the better of us. Yes there is still fear but the fear is not greater than our faith. Yes there is still pain, but the pain is not greater than our hope. And if hate and apathy seem to be enduring, these can never be greater than love.
And so I may be surrounded by darkness, but I am not afraid. I am with you. And I know, the Lord is with you. The Lord is with us. There is light even in darkness.
Did you ever wonder why the night sky is dark? The common answer is, of course, the dayside of the planet is bathed in sunlight while we on the night side are not. We only have the moon and stars to light our night. However, if there are 200 billion stars or suns in our galaxy and about 100 billion galaxies in our universe, you’d think that starlight twinkling from all those suns would overlap and bathe us all in wonderful starlight.
The answer to this paradox is simple: in an infinite universe, yes, the night sky would actually be bright as day. If night is not as bright, it is because the universe is actually finite in size and finite in age. If there are patches of black, it is because the universe is not infinitely big, nor is it infinitely old.
And so, it is more dark than light at night. Everything around us has a lifetime, a finite boundary. Everything is limited and that is why there are more dark spaces than points of light at night.
We could very well resign ourselves to this fate. We are finite. Every birth, every beginning points eventually to an end. Stars are born and they too like our sun will die. They are not enough to dispel the darkness of night.
Given all this, we could live our lives in resignation. At bottom, we can choose to live in fear and anxiety. We can live in fear of the pain and indifference. We can live in anxiety about all that is limited and bounded and uncertain.
These last few days, I was afraid to go to the Internet. The internet is a human place. And because it is human, it can be a dark and twisted place. So much for my faith in humanity. There is enough dark out there for us to lose heart in humanity. Are we so hopeless and God-forsaken?
Thankfully, the Incarnation reveals to us how God so loved us that he became like us. How can we lose heart in ourselves when God has never lost heart in us? The mystery of the incarnation opens our eyes to who God is and to who we are as God sees us. God is love and we are God’s dearly beloved. God longs to share his life with us, and his very life is in this Child in a manger, the infinite emptying itself upon the finite, the eternal taking on a human face, out of love.
And so why should I be afraid of places like the Internet? Yes, it is a human place that can grow dark. But a dark place is only as dark as our humanity can make it, only as dark as we allow it.
Any place on earth can be a place of light, insofar as we allow God to make it. A school is a human place. This church, the Gesu, is a human place. And because it is human, it can be a place of light. Before the Word became flesh, all things human could only grow dark and desolate over time. Because of Christmas, any human place [even places in the heart] could be a place of light, a luminous place insofar as we let the light of Christ shine through.
The prophet Isaiah may tell us that we have seen a great light but we are the people who continue to walk the darkness. The light has shone but we know the darkness is far from over. The dark side never sleeps.
The dark side never sleeps. A chilling thought indeed that keeps me awake, keeps me wondering how we all might have to take turns sleeping to secure the perimeter at all times. We might have to take shifts sleeping if we are to guard our lives against any assault that could strike us from the dark.
Infants do keep us awake though the night. Looking at the belen, I hear my own longing for God in this little infant to hush me, hush us:
Tahan na. tahan na. Sleep in peace. Sleep in heavenly peace. The Child in the manger is awake. Sleep now. You can sleep. The Child is now awake.
*Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light (Japan). Image from the Internet.