The Light of Christmas

Friday, January 24, 2020 - Updated: 2:17 pm

By Father John Segun Odeyemi

Several times in sacred Scripture, we encounter the phrase “In the beginning …” We find it in the beginning of the Book of Genesis, in the Gospel of John, and we hear it again in Jesus’ response to the question posed on the legality of divorce.

Scripturally, going back to the beginning is foundational to deciphering events and truths about God’s actions through time. While still bathed in the joys of Christmas, what do we find when we go back to the beginning? I think what we find is that the incarnation in the will of God became necessary as part of the unfolding of human history and the desire of God, who does not abandon his creation.

In Genesis 1:1, the creative power of God comes into play by bringing order out of primordial chaos. The creative divine sovereignty of God first gives light in contrast to the formless void and darkness that covered the face of the deep. And God saw that it was good.

In Exodus 13:17, while Israel was on the march out of Egypt, God’s presence was marked as a pillar of cloud leading the people by day and fire by night. In the Book of Numbers, Chapter 11, after the erection of the tent of meeting, God’s presence came down as a pillar of cloud while Moses conversed with the Lord. The cloud lifts up when Israel continues its march.

In 1 Kings, Chapter 18, about the contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed his soggy calf offered as sacrifice. From this incident, the saying “a God who answers by fire” was born. The psalmist later also says Yahweh is an all-consuming fire.

Parts of the New Testament are closely linked with the symbols of light and darkness employed here. The arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane takes place in the evening when it is dark (cf. Matthew 26:36-46). The resurrection of the Lord happens at the dawning of a new day after the sabbath.

The link between the passion and resurrection of the Lord within this same motif of darkness and light cannot be lost on anyone familiar with the Bible. The infant Jesus is born at night in a manger, but the glory of God shines and brightens the night. The angels proclaim the presence of the light of the world to shepherds out in the field. At the birth of the Messiah, it was as if God was saying all over again, “Let there be light!”

The overt interplay of light and darkness in Scripture is almost an overture of the highest form of classical music arranged by the Maestro who designed time and history. In this piece, light will always overcome darkness.

John 1:4-5 states poetically, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This cosmic upheaval will continue until the final self-revelation of God, when he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Those who stand in and with the Light need fear not the darkness of evil and sin. The child born at Christmas is that Light for all nations. The Light of Christmas is the light for our Christian journey even as we enter a new year.

Father Odeyemi, who has served as a parochial vicar at Divine Mercy Parish in Pittsburgh’s City Center/Hill District, was named a parochial vicar in the parish grouping that includes St. Paul Cathedral, St. Rosalia and St. Stephen, effective Jan. 27.

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