Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos, is a published author and long-time columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter. A storyteller, poet and minister, Pastor Greg writes about faith as experienced through the challenges and joy of everyday life. Pastor Greg takes an ecumenical point of view and often discusses the richness and diversity of religious beliefs and their role in community.
Who could ever forget December 2006?
Many of us were without heat, lights and power for eight consecutive days. It was the week that darkness dominated our lives. We were reminded how dependent we were on flashlights, candles or the glow of a cell phone screen.
Night after night as I drove across the I-90 floating bridge toward Mercer Island, I was stunned to see that unilluminated landmass silhouetted against the starlit sky. It was eerie. It wasn’t right.
Since the dawn of human history, darkness has been a metaphor of what isn’t right. Darkness (as you know) is not tangible reality in itself. It is simply the lack of light. Thus, it is an appropriate word to reference the absence of virtue, knowledge and life.
The godless deceive beneath the cover of darkness. The uninformed are trapped in the darkness of their ignorance. The dead are said to inhabit the “valley of shadows.”
No wonder both Judaism and Christianity approach their holy days in December mindful of light. Hanukkah calls for candles. Advent and Christmas do as well. A flaming wick atop a taper of wax symbolizes God’s divine intervention in a dark world of despair and hopelessness.
An ancient Hebrew prophet anticipated the day when light would deny darkness its right to reign. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV).
For Jews, those words recall countless times when God has delivered His captive people and illuminated their future with hope. Christians see the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. “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” (John 1:4-5 NIV).
For both Jews and Christians, the Scriptures offer an invitation to look past this present darkness to a future bathed in the light of goodness, justice and peace. The light that has dawned is in the process of dispelling the darkness.
For now, darkness dominates both literally and figuratively. Wednesday is the shortest day of the year. News headlines are short on hope. Light seems in limited supply. But are you a glass half-empty or half-full person? This season invites you to be the latter. After all, come Thursday, the days start getting longer.
But also the wonder of Biblical tales.
A miracle oil. A miracle birth.
A miracle visit of One sent to earth.
that light up our world with the truth they unmask.
This season of Christmas and Hanukah too
means candles for Christians and candles for Jews.
Some grace a menorah and some grace a wreath.
The glow from these candles expose cunning thieves
that lurk in the shadows and hide in the weeds.
One thief’s name is Envy. The other is Greed.
These holiday bandits are hungry as sin.
They steal and devour contentment within.
Like vandals they lure us. They’re really quite smart.
They pillage and plunder the peace in our hearts.
They kidnap our reason insisting on new
while what we are using is fine and will do.
They hold our minds hostage to where we want more.
More money. More status. More stuff. So much more.
More big screens. More cell phones. More video games.
So much more technology. It is so lame.
These holiday villains just must be exposed.
Their criminal conduct’s the cause of our woes.
We’re weary. We’re listless. We’re often depressed.
We’re angry. We’re in debt. We’re way over-stressed.
And all the while famines and earthquakes and war
rob helpless young children of life like before.
No shelter. No supper. No sweet dreams at night.
No hope that injustices will be made right.
No parents. No siblings. No laughter. No time.
No chance for survival beyond eight or nine.
No lie. It’s the truth. We are victims you see
of devious Greed and his partner Envy.
They’re ruining Christmas and Hanukah too.
But there’s a solution. Three things we can do.
The first is to thank God for all that we own.
The second’s to care for the needy we’ve known.
The third is to sponsor poor children abroad.
By sharing with orphans, we’re honoring God.
Compassion, World Vision and, yes, World Concern
allow us to reach out to kids who’ve been burned
by random disasters that leveled their lives
reducing their childhood to hunger and sighs.
It’s really amazing. By showing we care,
we’ll lock up those bandits that cause our despair.
We’ll find renewed freedom from unneeded stuff
and even the courage to shout out “Enough!”
Enough of the shopping. Enough of the crowds.
Enough of more diddlies, for crying out loud.
Enough of just buying for family and friends.
Enough of this nonsense. It’s time it all ends.
So as we light candles and ready our homes,
let’s welcome the Presence that comes with shalom.
Let’s listen for what in our hearts we might hear.
In candlelit silence, we find God. He’s here.