Across the Pastor’s Desk: Savior is bearing God’s light

Published 8:00 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Loren Olson

I like Christmas. I’d agree with the song that it is “the most wonderful time of the year.”

As a person of faith, I appreciate the sacred music, hope-filled readings and extra worship opportunities. I celebrate that the season seems to bring out the best in many of us, even those who are not particularly religious. People seem more aware of the need to help and encourage one another with gifts and good cheer. I like the festive décor, holiday gatherings, special foods and thinking about gifts to give to loved ones.

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My only complaint about Christmas is that in these parts “the weather outside is frightful.”

It is cold. There is often snow and ice on the ground. The days are too short and the darkness too long. There is some evidence that early Christians first began celebrating the festival of the nativity in May, but it was not long before a consensus grew around the late December date. In many places there were already religious festivals celebrating that the winter solstice had passed and daylight was beginning to overcome darkness. Since they were unable to go down to the courthouse and check birth records in those ancient times, it made sense to many early Christian leaders to celebrate the birth of the one who came to be light to the world when others were already celebrating the victory of light over darkness. So as tempting as it might be, I will not try to petition the church to move Christmas back to May. I will celebrate Christmas, remembering as John wrote of Christ, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

This coming week will hold the days with the least daylight of the year as we mark the official beginning of winter. By next weekend a dedicated observer might notice the discernible difference in daylight and realize we are on our way to spring. We know that there is a lot of winter left, but we will be moving toward spring. That relates to the Christmas story because we know that our savior came bearing God’s light to the world. We’d be fools to say that the darkness was overcome in that moment, or in his lifetime, or even in the history of his followers who continue to bear the light. The darkness that spreads fear and hate is still with us. But the light is growing and will win. It all began with a child, born in simple circumstances in Bethlehem. The light continues to go forth until that day when all will know the light that comes from God. That light will lead all people to worship and live in peace as brothers and sisters, and all of creation will celebrate and sing “Joy to the World!”

Loren Olson is chaplain of Mayo Clinic Hospice.