Finding Light in a World of Darkness

We’ve struggled over the past four days to somehow make sense out of the senseless. How dark our world has become. How do we cope with such unspeakable tragedy? Those of us who are parents wonder how to talk to our children about the evil, the pain and the ever-present suffering all too readily found in our world.

The only consolation I continue to fall back upon is that it is Advent.

For many, Advent has completely lost its meaning. For too many, it’s become the shopping and the music and the eating and the parties before the party. An executive with a recording label recently told me that when they approached a music distributor about recording and selling an Advent CD, the response by the distributor was: “What’s Advent?”

Regardless of what Advent has become, it is meant to be a penitential time of preparation. We await the Light of the World, but he has not yet come. In the darkness we wonder: “Will he come?”

In personal devotions and prayers this Advent season, the theme of “light” has continually been impressed upon me. Christ is the Light of the World. He came into the world, but the world knew him not. He dispels the darkness.

The darkness, we are told, shall not overcome the light.

In church, I’ve marveled at the light coming through the stained-glass windows at morning Mass. The flickering of the Advent and altar candles catches my eye and remains a reference point during prayer. Our children are attracted to the warmth of the fireplace light that casts the chill from our living room where we gather as a family to read, to talk, to play games and to pray.

In the events of Newtown, we may well wonder, “Where, O Lord, is the light?”

It seems as if the darkness is overtaking us, and we cannot bear it.

Last night at my son’s Christmas choir concert, the narrator spoke of Jesus who meets us and lifts us in our pain.

As I held this morning’s Wall Street Journal open to the bright and shining and smiling faces of the children and adults whose lives were cut short by the senseless violence, light again came to mind: the light from each face, the light with which they filled each of their families.

In the days since Friday, I continue to see light, most especially in the photographs and videos of the many candlelight vigils honoring the victims and their families. We light candles in remembrance and to chase away the darkness.

For some, the very darkness of winter and the lack of light can result in both physical and mental ailments.

Light, quite literally, gives life. Without it, every single living organism on Earth would perish.

The same is true in our Christian lives, whether we realize it or not.

Without Jesus Christ, we would have no life within us. “In him,” as Scripture tells us, “… we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Without him, we would cease to be.

Amidst this incredible and overpowering darkness, we must hold on to the Light. We must let that Light bathe us and wash over us and consume us. We must let that Light heal us.

Christ’s birth was heralded by a star so bright in the nighttime sky that it attracted the attention of foreign visitors from the East. In the lovely Nativity artwork of Gerritt van Honthorst, the light from the Christ Child illuminates the faces of Mary and Joseph and the angels who gaze upon the face of the Lord.

We pray that Christ might enter into our present darkness in much the same way that he entered the darkness of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. For those touched by this tragedy, Christmas may not come this year or the next or the one after that. But, eventually, it will come. He will come … and when he does, there will be no more tears or suffering or pain. There will be only glorious and never-ending Light.