Suzette Martinez Standring: Christmas light reflections
By Suzette Martinez Standring
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During the darkest nights of the season, I marvel at festive pinpoints of light, whether they are stars in the sky or from twinkling garlands. I love the New England tradition of a single candle in each window. For Christians, Dec. 25 serves up a giant birthday cake for Jesus Christ.
Ironically, the season for peace on earth sparks division, whether it is about religious displays or correct greetings. For example, it is said Dec. 25 was commandeered from ancient cultures, and it was not Jesus’ actual birth date. Scholars do argue Jesus probably was born in the spring, or summer, or fall since Luke 2:8 reads, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” The cold and rain of a Judean winter would make that unlikely.
It is believed a December Christmas date was superimposed over the period of the winter solstice, which marks the longest night of the year and a turning point when daylight begins to lengthen. Seasonal rebirth was exalted in various cultures. Three centuries after Jesus’ birth and under Emperor Constantine, the church decided to insert its Christmas commemoration into widespread winter festivals already taking place. As Christianity spread, Christmas eventually became the main celebration.
So what? Whether Jesus was born in the spring or winter doesn’t detract from the power of his existence. George Washington wasn’t born on the third Monday of every February either, but Congress decided to create a uniform celebration. It’s the same thing.
A much greater message can be overlooked. Everywhere holiday light is at its magical zenith, carrying symbolism that can be read in many ways. For me as a Christian, it represents the light of Christ that blazes hope in the face of poverty, war, violence, and despair.
John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome.” Thus, even with promise, spiritual light carries responsibility. I am but a tiny pinpoint trying to make a difference. Faith gives me the incentive to reach beyond my grasp, for example, to forgive or to ask forgiveness. Let’s face it, “goodwill toward man” is not always returned, and discouragement can lead to inaction. Winter’s bleakness is a metaphor for the shadows within myself. Heeding the message of Christmas sends me searching within for my own pinpoints of lights. Can I string enough together to lighten someone else’s burden without thanks or recognition?
A lone candle in a New England window pane shines above wintry streets, its owner never knowing whose hearts are cheered as they journey in the darkness. I say merry Christmas with love to all.
Email Suzette Standring at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is syndicated with GateHouse Media and is the author of “The Art of Column Writing” and “The Art of Opinion Writing.”