Christ is the Light of the world! Light is the most powerful sign pointing to His divinity. The promise of this great light coming into the world is pervasive in biblical and liturgical texts, with the promise that this light will dispel the darkness of the world. From Isaiah 9:2 echoed in St. Matthew 4:16 we know that the people who dwelt in darkness would see a great light, the light that would dispel the darkness of the world and death. God’s gift to us on Christmas is the gift of light, the infant born in Bethlehem. It was the “great light” of the star that led the shepherds to the true light that was the Christ child. St. John Henry Newman wrote a quiet contemplative poem on Christmas, entitled “Christmas without Christ”, when he was far from home, stranded on Malta. You can learn about the poem on this website:
In another of his Christmas poems, “Candlemas,” St. John Henry weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread. You can learn about the poem on this website as well:
And in Newman’s most famous poem, he asks the “kindly light” to lead him on.
For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the short dark days of winter aid this symbol of Christ being light; everything is decked with lights for the Christmas season, including the shining star atop most Christmas trees. Christ comes in “the bleak mid-winter.” But for the other half of the globe, Christmas falls during the brightest time of the year, with the longest days. The season itself does not aid in the symbolism of Christ as light, but the early morning sun breaking through the dark of the night aids in a similar way. The true meaning of Christ as light must be contemplated –He is the light that shines in the darkness of sin and sorrow; He enlightens every man. And this is exactly what the beautiful prayer by St. John Henry Newman emphasizes – we are to let His light shine in us. Newman writes:
“Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine; it will be You, shining on others through me. Amen.”
Christ’s birth brought light into the world – God’s gift to us. And so wherever we are, in whatever we do, within a crowded room full of family and friends around a bright fire, or with family and friends on a bright hot summer day with light flooding through every window, we remember that: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
As this first chapter of the Gospel of St. John reminds us, to all of us who receive this light, who believe in His name, He gives power to become children of God. Let us pray with St. John Henry Newman: “Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine.”