We have just passed the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. We will now enjoy a little more light each day. Christmas itself is a feast of lights. Trees are brought into homes and made radiant with brilliant lights; yards are also illumined. In other ways too, our lives are aglow with light. Often families are reunited; bonds of love and friendship are strengthened, and memories are brought to birth. These events of grace truly light up our lives.
The readings for today speak of two kinds of light. Isaiah promises a light full of hope. Jerusalem went through destruction and forced migration and is now in desperate need of rebuilding—a situation that has repeated itself down through the ages, even to our own day. The prophet proclaims that the darkness of despair has been lifted, and a new day of restoration has dawned. At last, the light has come!
In the Gospel, the magi are led to the child by the light of a star. Whether this was an actual celestial phenomenon, as the narrative suggests, or a metaphor for some other kind of enlightenment, it was by divine guidance that they found the child.
The children’s version of the Gospel story is well known to most, but the adult version contains the real challenge. It maintains that God, not the social or political structures of the day, is the source of our light. It teaches that openness and humility are necessary if we wish to read correctly the “signs of the times.” It insists that when we discover the “promised one,” we must be willing to offer him all that we have. The light has come, and we are invited to live in it. How have we responded to the invitation?