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A Light Shines in the Darkness

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”
– Isaiah, 9:26

There is a movie that came out a few years ago called “Children of Men.” It is set in the future, about 20 years from now. Human beings all over the world are no longer able to conceive or bear children. There hasn’t been a child born in eighteen years. The world has descended into chaos.

The movie is set in England, which is apparently the only place in the world where there is any order. And that’s not saying much. People from all over the world are trying to get there. Refugees are being rounded up and there are these cages right on the street where people are being locked up while waiting to be transported to a refugee camp. This is clearly a people living in darkness.

There is a group of rebels fighting to open the borders and this group comes in contact with a foreign woman who is pregnant. Because she is not a legal immigrant they fear for her safety should the government discover her and are trying to get her to a place where she can be rescued by a group called “The Human Project.” One night she gives birth in a refugee camp before she can be rescued. The following day a revolt erupts in the camp and she and her baby are caught in a building that is in the middle of the fighting. There are many refugees living in the building. The baby girl starts to cry.

As the mother is carrying her down the halls, with gunfire and shells exploding around them, people everywhere are crowding around at the sound of the baby’s cry. Everyone stops what they are doing and hands everywhere are reaching out to touch this child, to witness for themselves this miracle of life.

The cry “hold your fire” is heard first among the rebels in the building and then from the soldiers who are entering the building. The chaos stops, if only for a moment, while people make way for this mother and child and the man who is escorting them. Some fall to their knees, some are crying, every face shows awe and wonder. It’s as if time is standing still and there is a shift in the regular order of things.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

One could argue that Jesus was born under similar circumstances. The Roman army was occupying Judea and Galilee and there were soldiers everywhere and people felt the weight of great oppression. There were rebels and bandits throughout the countryside always ready to attack the soldiers and prey on vulnerable and frightened people. Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to be counted in a census. There were so many people on the road that Bethlehem must have been in chaos. No room at the inn. And then a child, Jesus, is born, and according to the stories, it is as if time stood still and there was a shift in the regular order of things. Angels sing, a glorious star appears in the sky, shepherds leave their flocks to see this child, and strangers journey from the East.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The gospel writers wrote the stories about Jesus’s birth to emphasize the message they were trying to convey, that Jesus was indeed a light in the darkness and the fulfillment of humankind’s deepest wishes. Yet, isn’t that what it should be like every time a child is born? Shouldn’t the miracle of birth, the miracle of possibility stop time and shift the regular order of things?

Children are, in fact, our future, our hope, our possibility, for there is no tomorrow without them. Why wouldn’t the world descend into darkness and chaos if there were no more children born? Why don’t we recognize the miracle of tomorrow that is present each time a child is born?

The message of Christmas is that the birth of this child or any child is light shining in whatever darkness has overtaken our lives –despair or hopelessness or grief or just being caught up the ordinariness of life. The birth of any child is like a flower growing in the cracks of a city sidewalk, it is incarnation, something wonderful coming to life in the midst of destruction, in the midst of all we do to pour concrete over our lives and bury that God-given spark that lives in each of us.

Sophia Lyon Fahs wrote:

Each night a child is born is a holy night –
A time for singing
A time for wondering
A time for worshiping

May it always be so!

Rev. Arthur Lavoie is the minister at First Parish Church in Dorchester.