‘A light shining in the darkness’

By Joseph Harris

We gather, once again this evening to remember and celebrate. To remember the birth of a little child and to rejoice and celebrate because this little child is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
This event is meant to fill us with great hope, not amnesia. This Eucharistic celebration of Christmas and the festive activities, which are all worthy of being enjoyed must not make us forget the situation which we as a nation live. If we do forget and do not let the events of the past year influence the way in which we celebrate, then we are like ostriches, hiding our heads in the sand, until of course, disaster strikes close to home.
What are we called to remember? We are called to remember the 390-odd murders committed during the past year. We are called to remember that 28 of those killed during the past year were under the age of 18 and therefore minors. We are called to remember that seven of those were under the age of 12, a jump of four over the past year. We are called to remember those whose lives were snuffed out in road accidents and those who lost everything because of flooding. The list can go on and on.
It is tempting to ask, why remember these distressing statistics in this season of cheer and goodwill? We must remember if we are to apply the Gospel message of this feast to the concrete situation that we live, so that we can let this message enlighten and transform us.
The first reading of this Eucharistic celebration reminds us of the vision of the prophet Isaiah; “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light, on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” I know that it can and will be said that things are not as bad as they seem. There is much for which we have to thank Almighty God. That is true, but we could be thanking God for much more and I wonder if the parents, family and friends of those who have lost babies, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers are seeing much for which to thank God.

If we are willing to see “a light has shone upon us.” God has sent his Son into the world so that our eyes may be opened for us to see the way to the happiness which we seek. That is why the good news given to the shepherds in the fields resonates in our hearts today and fills us with hope. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
The celebration of Christmas reminds us that we have the solution to all the problems that we face as a nation. We have to adopt the values of Jesus Christ, values which are found in the sacred writings of every religion and every Christian denomination.
Our problem is the problem described by the John the Evangelist in the prologue to the gospel. “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” The question for each one of us then is this: Have I accepted Jesus? Have I made the values and the vision of Jesus my own?
My dear friends, the acceptance of Jesus brings with it certain obligations. As Jesus the Son was sent by the Father into the world to be a “light shining in the darkness”, so the acceptance of Jesus carries with it the recognition that we, too, have been sent to ensure that “the light continues to shine in the darkness.”
My dear friends, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son,” God, however, continues to speak to us today and cries out to us in the tears of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who bear the anguish of the loss of their loved ones.
God calls on us, those of us who are here, those of us who frequent the sacraments, those of us who consider ourselves authentic disciples and good Christians, God calls on us to believe in his name and be “light shining in the darkness” which seems to envelop so much of our land.

It is only through our lives that Emmanuel, God-with-us, will walk our land. It is only through our lives that real hope will be given to our people.
I urge you, therefore, to be light to those who walk in the darkness of despair because their lives have been traumatised by vehicular accidents, violent crime, the murder of loved ones, the abuse of children. Over this Christmas season strive to be bearers of hope to them so that the message of peace may touch their hearts.
This season of goodwill to all demands that we actively and profoundly share this goodwill. Let us not be ostriches hiding our heads in the sand, let us be disciples hearing the message of Christmas and taking it to the farthest corners of our land, especially to those who think that they have no reason to hope.

This column is the homily of
Archbishop Joseph Harris delivered at the Christmas Eve mass on Tuesday might at the Sacred Heart Church,
Richmond Street, Port of Spain.
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