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It isn’t a coincidence that Christ was born at night. Not all light comes through our corneas. There is another kind of light, light of . . . hope. Christ in us is called “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). And Christ is also the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). Hope shines. And what better time for a light to shine than at night?

It’s a hard concept to grasp, isn’t it—that a person can be a light? Maybe that’s because it isn’t meant to be grasped; it’s meant to be grown. Some truths are hard and thick as granite. They bear us up and keep us steady. But other truths are seeds. They’re meant to germinate, to stretch into a stem and lift their flowering head to the sun. This truth is like that. Christ as the light is Christmas greenery.

Imagine it. The night is dark and cold, air creeping in the folds of clothing as Joseph and Mary made their way to a small town. Caesar’s decree for a census has swelled the town to its seams. Houses and inns are brimming. Streets are flooded with feet. Somehow, somewhere, Joseph and Mary find a stable. And there, amidst the heavy exhalations of cows and horses, amidst the pressing of hay under hooves, it would happen. In great pain, a light would dawn. But who would be able to see it?

Eventually, the whole world would see it, as the centuries rolled forward like boulders down a hill. People would stare at the story of Christ’s birth and realize something more was happening than an infant pushing his head into a world of color and light. There was something . . . deeper.

Christmas is about the deeper light that takes focus to notice. And that deeper light is the God who gives himself away. Christ is, as the Nicene Creed puts it, “Light of light, very God of very God.” And why did he come? “For God so loved the world . . .” The love of God—even for those who ignore him or curse his name—culminates in giving. And that gift is “Light of light.”

Christmas is about the deeper light that takes focus to notice. And that deeper light is the God who gives himself away.

Follow me into this mystery. The light of the birth of Christ shines in gracious generosity; it glows because it gives. It sends a message to the whole world—chasing its own desires like a crazed dragonfly in the summer heat—that others are worth living for. Others are even worth dying for. But the Christ of Christmas shines brightest in the wonderful truth that other people are worth God being born for. How? Why? Because God made us like himself. We are his children.

If we take nothing else from the Christmas story, we take this: our world is darkened by selfishness. No light can come from those who stare at themselves. The darkness of that night so many years ago was a shadow of a deeper darkness. The light of God entered the world as self-giving grace. In that infant, God’s hands were opened wide for any and all who wanted to grasp them. Jesus Christ is an invitation to live a life too great for selfishness, a life that seeks to give itself away for others. And the more we give, the brighter Christ burns in us.

This is why I’ve always loved singing “Silent Night” in a dark church, with all these hands holding amber candles. As we hold the light in our hands, together, we sing. And we sing not just in the dark but through the dark, out into the world that so desperately needs to have its chin lifted up, to have its focus taken off of itself, even for one day of the year.

Do you see? The Son of God was born on a dark night to give the light of self-giving to a selfish world. We stare at that infant each year and say, “Ah, yes, God. It’s not about me.” The light of God burns steadily through every season of our selfishness. But in this season, we pause intentionally to worship. The hope of God shines brightest in the darkest room. Creation, it turns out, is a room darker than any other. It needed a light. And the candle of God was lit on Christmas night.

More Advent readings await! Check out Christmas Glory now!

You may also like The Book of Giving.

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