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Christmas Light Shining on a Spiritual Adventure

Recently, after living many years of forgetting about it, I was reminded of something that should

have been etched in in my memory bank --- namely that Advent (coming) and Adventure (an

unusual and exciting, perhaps hazardous, experience or activity) come from the same root word.

Thus, I spent a lot of time this Advent pondering the reality that the season of Advent is more

than just waiting for the Parousia or preparing for the Christmas Event. Advent is, in fact, a

period that prepares us for a spiritual adventure. A Father in heaven loves us so much that he

sends his only Son to redeem us. While this adventure is unique to each of us, we should expect

that the adventure will be sometimes exhilarating, sometimes challenging, and many times a

combination of both --- even if we have a lack of awareness, which is in itself a darkness.

In a Christmas sermon of St. Augustine’s [193.1] I am reminded that in the Christmas Gospel,

we aren’t really announcing Jesus’s birth to shepherds watching their flocks, but celebrating

Jesus’s birthday as one of the flock: “the angels spoke to the shepherds; but the newborn Jesus

ultimately came to speak to the sheep, not to the shepherds.” It seems then, that an adult’s

response to the Christmas gift of Jesus in our world isn’t one to be in control of our lives and

lead others; rather we are gifted with the knowledge that we are not in control of the world in

which we live. I need to keep reminding myself of that fact; otherwise, my haughty sense of self-

worth might unintentionally cloud the spiritual reality of my being. This self-reliance could cloud

the joy of knowing the Light of the World brought by the Christmas event.

This light is the Christmas gift! I have heard people say that “Christmas isn’t about gifts.” I know

their intention, but I only echo it insofar as they mean that perhaps the true meaning of Christmas

--- namely the birth of the God-man --- is being overshadowed by commercialism. However, I

challenge their basic statement; Christmas is, in fact about The Gift! As a child might unwrap a

Christmas gift with great hope and an unbridled enthusiasm, those of us who are older (and

perhaps have developed a more guarded approach to the expression of joy) sometimes press a

personal mute button, when turning up the volume would actually better indicate our

appreciation for what we have received. Jesus brought light into the darkest part of the night;

thus, going from Advent into an adventure.

At Christmas, I need to remind myself that Jesus was born in the darkest part of the night, in a

month traditionally believed to be the one with the shortest amount of daylight. How wonderful

and exciting is that juxtaposition! How vividly enlightening is the hope and confidence that

whatever might be going on in one’s life --- things we readily celebrate as well as things which

might immobilize our celebration --- it is one’s privilege and adventure to choose the Light who

is Jesus!

But sometimes, as in the case of many of our homes, choosing the light can have too many

options, obfuscating the very purpose of a light switch on a lamp or wall. Do we want the light

on or off ? Do we want to dim it, and if so, to what degree? Is there a timer so that we can control

it? I suggest that the Christmas gift of the Light of Christ is always on; however, it is the

disposition of our own hearts, minds and souls that controls its luminescence, like the light

dimmer on the wall!

At a time when Christians and others are thinking of happy Christmas memories and looking

forward to creating new ones, I/we must not forget the challenges of the dimming of the Light of

Christ in the world. The people of the Ukraine still struggle for their freedom and identity as a

sovereign nation. Thirty miles from the birthplace of Jesus Christ, unthinkable atrocities take

place. In the United States mutual distrust takes place in our two-party system, and worst of all

too many of our citizens are promoters of hate simply because others don’t look like them or

think like them. Absolutely, this is an adherence to the lack of the recognition of the Light of

Christ! Such discord took place during St. Augustine’s time as well. In his Christmas Sermon

(193.1) St. Augustine states with guarded elation: “On Christmas day the angels sang of ‘peace

on earth’ to men of good will. It is a great song but on some days it seems unrealistic. Men

and women of good will are often trampled upon by men and women of ill will. But it is

important to remember that the angels were singing on the day when God almighty was born

as a human being into this sometimes disordered world.”

At times I need to be reminded that if my options are sadness or joy, I must choose joy. If chaos

and uncertainty challenge my resting in Christ, I must choose to rest in the Lord. If I hunger for

immediate answers, I must trust in the Lord always. If my spiritual light switch gets dimmer, I

must trust and bask in the Light of Christ who warms me when the world seems cold. This too is

sometimes the giant leap from a period of waiting to a spiritual adventure based on trust and

confidence in the Christmas gift from our loving Father. The adventure can be frightening

because the advent of it --- the waiting if you will --- might only require patience, but the action

of the adventure requires a willful response to complete trust in the Light of the World delivered

on Christmas night.

The Blessed Virgin didn’t endure just waiting in her nine months Advent. In her submission to

the Father, she knowingly or unknowingly accepted an adventure, which would change the world

by the birth of her Son. Because of a loving Father, I do not have to settle for or choose to live in

the darkness; rather I can bask in the light that shone on that first Christmas light. Jesus is the

Christmas gift I still need. Not like the welcomed gifts of the past, but as a Light shining within

me now to await and welcome what God has in store for me. The birth of Christ is more than a

gift of the past. It is real and present now. Perhaps that what is meant by the term Christmas


In his Sermon (2,2) St. Augustine expresses the acknowledgement of the birth of Jesus as a new

spiritual adventure, providing the Light even when we might stumble in the darkness. “Let us

celebrate the Lord’s birthday with the full attendance and the enthusiasm that we should give

it. Let men rejoice, let women rejoice…. Rejoice, you who are just. It the birthday of Him who

justifies. Rejoice, you who are weak and sick. It is the birthday of Him who makes us well.

Rejoice, you who are in captivity. It is the birthday of the Redeemer. Rejoice, you who are

slaves. It is the birthday of the Master. Rejoice, you who are free. It is the birthday of Him who

makes us free. Rejoice, you Christians all. It is Christ’s birthday!”

God’s Christmas present to me is an invitation to accept the adventure of the unknown, while

shining His light on me during the adventure! He will show me the way! He will show you the

way as well, if you are willing to discard fear to be led by the Light. Merry Christmas!

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