It may not seem the best of times as Christendom once again gathers around yule trees to celebrate the most honored event of its history. Throughout the world nations and individuals confront perplexing problems and frustrated hopes. Americans watch anxiously as their economy is shaken and their children are still help captive in a foreign land. Poles sit poised on a political knife's edge as they struggle to keep alight new glimmers of freedom and overcome economic chaos. Iranians and Iraqis are senselessly killing each other, caught in a conflict of dubious purpose. In Italy bereaved families dig out from the rubble of devastation to put their lives together again. And in so many parts of the globe -- Somalia, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan -- refugees wait longingly for food and shelter.
Yet what more fitting time for Christians and indeed all men to be renewed in spirit and soul. That, surely, is what Christmas is all about. Not merely a tinseled festivity that momentarily shoves the burdens of life into a corner. Not merely the gathering of kith and kin to enjoy the warmth of closeness. But, in the deepest sense, an occasion to glimpse and appropriate afresh that Christly light of truth which lifts all burdens and dispels the gloom.
What solid comfort we can all take from the life of the man whose birth Christians honor and who most exemplified that Christly light. Is there hunger in the world? Jesus fed the multitudes. Are there pain and suffering? Jesus healed those who humbly put their reliance in God. Do men and women languish in captivity, the captivity not only of steel bars but of the enslaving lure of materialistic living? Jesus proclaimed the ultimate liberation in the ringing words, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Is humanity dispirited? Jesus foretold the turbulence of our times but compassionately comforted his listeners.
"In the world ye shall have tribulation," we read in the Gospel of John. "But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Let us, then, be of good cheer. The power of the Christ, Truth, has commanded the centuries since that luminous night in Bethlehem, breaking through the darkness of human ignorance and limitation and propelling mankind toward ever new heights of achievement and progress. It is the divine impulse which is touching men's hearts to the issues of freedom, purifying the environment, sparking a yearning for spiritually and peace. If there is tumult and disorder, if mankind seems befogged by materialism and torn with violence, these are but signs of the stir in human thought which Christ Jesus prophesied his revolutionary teachings would bring. Far from a cause for fear or foreboding, they should be a call to Christians for a renewal of hope and of rededication to living the glorious and healing truths of their faith.
May this season therefore find Christian hearts pausing to awaken to the Christly light within -- and reaching out with that light to embrace a waiting world.