Christmas lights reminiscent of the Great Light

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Natchez is a beautiful city, but in the past few weeks it has taken on a new radiance because of all the lights that are added for Christmas — store windows, in homes, on antebellum plantations, in Memorial Park, on Broad Street, along the Mississippi River bluff, on trees/porches/fences in our neighborhoods, and in the churches of this city.

All these lights are special signs to us, and they remind us of the Great Light, the son of God, whose first coming into our world 2,000 years ago we remember at Christmas. If you are out and about in our city after sundown, take notice of the myriad of lights in our city and let them remind you of the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world.

The inspired word of God in the Bible tells us an important message. The great prophet, Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, had an encouraging message: “A people who walk in darkness will see a great light” (Isaiah 1:1-3).

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He was addressing God’s own people whose lives were burdened with poverty, diseases without cures, unemployment, unfair taxes, instability in governing structures, corruption in leadership, fear and anxiety about family and life itself. In a manner of speaking, Isaiah’s message acknowledged the burdens and darkness and promised that “they who walked in darkness would experience the light.”

Forty years after the resurrection of Jesus, John’s gospel has another perspective on the light promised by Isaiah. John (John 21) tells us “The light has come, it has shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Many of the signs of darkness of Isaiah’s time were still present in Jesus time. The great Light shone on these, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The great Light would be God’s own son — Jesus — in human form. Born of a young woman in the humble setting of an animal shelter in Bethlehem, a fugitive from Herod’s soldiers in his infancy, Jesus traveled to Egypt to find safety, was reared by his family in the Jewish faith, and grew to adulthood in the town of Nazareth near the Sea of Galilee.

The coming of this great Light fulfilled a promise made by God at the time that Adam and Eve — our earliest human forebears — sinned and lost God’s friendship. God, in his love for humankind, did not abandon them. He promised (Gen.3:15) to send a savior that would make it possible for humankind to recover God’s friendship. God never forgot that promise and continued to remind and prepare the people through patriarchs and prophets for the eventual coming of this promised savior.

We know the story from that point onwards. At this time of year, we are reminded of his birth, we value the meaning of his coming and his mission, and in our humble ways we celebrate this great event. We do not understand how He who was the Son of God and existed from all eternity was born into our world over 2,000 years ago.  His mission was/is to teach us that God loves every person, that He wants us to spend eternity with Him, that He is a forgiving God and no sin is too great to be forgiven, that He walks with us in the storms and darkness of our lives, and that He will enable us to reach our true destiny — life eternal with Him.

Do you agree that we as a people need the great Light? Maybe we still walk in darkness. I look around our community and our world today. Our world is divided by war; in our community many are hungry, homeless and without medical care. Even at this time of year, families are divided because of jobs, military service, prison and greed. There is anxiety in many families; there is still illness, broken families, fear, discouragement and loneliness.

This time of year, as we celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth, we are encouraged to remember “The Light has come, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Are you open to the great Light in your life? Seek it and pray for it. Do you know someone you consider to be in darkness? How can you help that person find the Light? Have you ever felt or do you feel today you are in a dark place? How can the great Light help you? In what ways have you been a source of Light for someone? Have you ever been a barrier to the Light in someone’s life?

Don’t miss the opportunity this Christmas to seek and pray for the great Light in your life. Find it and live it and be a source of Light for at least one person. My concluding prayer: O God, you gladden us each year with the celebration of Christmas. Grant as we remember his first coming, we will discover again his Light in our life. Give us the wisdom to live in that Light, and the commitment to share that Light with those around us, so that one day we will live in that Light forever. We make this prayer through Jesus, the great Light. Amen.

In preparing my reflection, I remember today: military men/women, our police and fire people, nurses and doctors who staff hospitals and nursing homes, our sitters who take care of the elderly, persons separated from their families, those who are immigrants in a new land, those in prison, those who feel alone, the sick, and those with sadness/grief in their lives.

The Rev. David O’Connor is pastor emeritus of St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Church. He can be reached at email: