Halfway Out of the Dark
“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, “Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.” Back on Earth we call this Christmas. Or the Winter Solstice.” – Doctor Who, A Christmas Carol
Christmas. Halfway out of the dark. This is my new favorite definition of Christmas. On one hand it connects the celebration of the birth of Christ to the natural patterns of the world – an affirmation of the physical that mind/body dualistic Christianity has attempted to hide in embarrassment. But it is also an affirmation of the paradoxical space that Advent calls us to live into.
The light shines in the darkness but the darkness does not understand it. In fact even those that claim to follow the light, keep the light at a safe distance as they wrap themselves in darkness. The coming of light into the world, the birth of the incarnate God, is for some simply a reminder of a far off promise. The light will eventually shine someday chasing away all shadows, but for now we must put up with the darkness as we dream about the light. The darkness doesn’t understand that the light has already broken into the world, not simply as a tantalizing glimpse of the future, but as an illuminating hope shining in the now.
I recently heard a women from Cuba share about how waiting for this light, this promised hope someday, is the only thing that people there have to help them make it through the day. Then she added how blessed she felt that the government is now not only allowing Bibles to be distributed and evangelical churches to gather so that people can have access to this comforting hope, but that the Cuban government is funding such things. The communist government knows the power of light. To allow it as an ever-receding hope in the future turns it into the subduing opium that they need. To allow light into the present would be dangerous, for light can’t help but chase away darkness. So of course they pour money into systems that convince people that liberating hope is only something for the sweet by-and-by. It allows the darkness to thrive.
The darkness always resists the light. If it can convince us that all we should do is perform half-hearted incantations to the idea of light while we ourselves shove the advent of light off into the future, then the darkness will have won. We distract ourselves with complaining about a so-called “war on Christmas” while it is our own theology that hides the light under a bushel. We shrug at the poverty, oppression, and injustice of the darkness as we mumble about God imposing his kingdom someday all the while hoping that the darkness continues to hide our involvement in those very injustices.
Someday, yes, the light will shine in its full brightness. The Kingdom will come in full and the darkness will be no more. But the paradox of Advent is that this light has already broken-in; the light might not be fully apparent yet but we are halfway there. The light is not just to come; it has arrived and is there to help us see. So to await the advent of the ultimate illumination means to live in the light in the now. It means having hope that the shadows of injustice and oppression can be chased away. It means not letting ourselves be subdued into reconciling ourselves with the darkness. It means not simply talking about the light or defending an impotent idea of light, but seeking it out, basking in it, and taking it to where illumination is needed. It means remembering that Christmas is situated at the turning of the seasons, at the time when light always returns and the darkness never ultimately triumphs.
Darkness abounds, but light is shining in and we are halfway out of the dark. That is the meaning of Christmas.