Vincentian View: Light in the Night
“Silent Night, Holy Night.” Like many of you, I have heard those words sung numerous times in the past weeks. An odd thought flitted through my mind during one of these recent hearings: “How do we know that Jesus was born at night?” I remember reading an article some years ago that said most babies are born in the morning. Of course, a little consideration of the Christmas story makes the night association of his birth pretty evident. To begin, we know that Jesus was born when the Holy Family stopped for the evening and could not find an inn to rest and sleep. But there are other associations.
The symbols which we use to express the birth of Jesus vary, but one of them is certainly “light.”
The glow of the star guides the Magi as they see its appearance and follow its guidance to Bethlehem. They have little appreciation of what it means, but they know that they must pursue it, and they do. These men, often called “kings” and sometimes “wise men,” are gentiles who have searched the heavens for wisdom, and in a star they have found the light which has brought them to the fullest expression of God’s wisdom on earth, Jesus.
The light of angels illumines the night sky for the shepherds who herded their sheep near the place where Jesus was born. The angels bring these humble men and women good news. Undoubtedly, their eyes lit up as they heard the announcement that the long-awaited Messiah had come among them and was lying in a stable close by. They choose to go and see this gift given to their people. These simple Jewish shepherds knew the promises made to their ancestors. They came to see the one who will be the Good Shepherd for all God’s people.
At the birth of Jesus, creation has reached a new point. At the beginning, God began his work with the simple statement: “Let there be light.” Then a light appeared which drove away the darkness and made way for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creative effort. In Jesus, God has once again said: “Let there be light;” once again the darkness will be driven back and God’s children will be able to see clearly and correctly. Jesus will be, as he tells us in his adult years, “the Light of the World.”
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12; 9:5)
We can imagine the infant Jesus bathing in the soft light of whatever candle or fire Mary and Joseph had for illumination and warmth.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold this marvelous moment in time:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone. (Isa 9:1)
We proclaim the reality of this moment in our creed which we proclaim each Sunday: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” It reminds us of the heart of our faith.
In the Christmas Vigil, we are invited to open our eyes to the light. We are brought here by the memory of stars and angels and God’s creative acts. We come here to listen to stories about the light and how he needs to shine in our world and in our lives. This truth illumines our world, brightens our smile, and beams radiantly at the heart of our faith.