Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In God There Is No Darkness

December 28, 2011

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5)

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. (Matthew 2:13-16)


In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God:
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

(refrain from “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” by Kathleen Thomerson)


Every year I have trouble finding a religious Christmas card that I would like to send. Some are too cute, as though they were meant for small children. Others, mostly famous religious paintings, have the infant Jesus looking like a little shrunken down adult. But this year, I found one I liked on the first try. It’s not particularly pretty. The card is dark; it’s night in the town of Bethlehem. Almost the only light in the picture comes from the rude shelter where Mary and Joseph have found refuge with their newborn son, Jesus. How appropriate, I thought. The birth of Jesus as described in John’s Gospel, the Light shining in the darkness, the Light which no darkness can overcome. The card captured the Christmas message for me.

I was reminded again of the contrast between light and darkness as I read today’s Scripture passages. John, in his first letter, says that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” Joseph is a man walking in the light. From the very first mention of him in the Gospels, he strikes me as a kind person. Confronted with a pregnant-by someone-else betrothed, he doesn’t seek to embarrass her. He’ll quietly divorce her. He’s also a faithful person. He’s open to putting his plans aside and allowing his life to unfold according to God’s plan. He listens to the angel’s message in a dream and marries Mary after all. He will help to raise this Child of God. Joseph is a courageous and obedient man as well. When, in another dream, an angel tells him to protect the child Jesus from the machinations of Herod, he doesn’t question how they will live as undocumented aliens in a foreign land. He obediently takes his little family and flees to Egypt, where they will stay until Joseph receives the all-clear signal to return.

Herod, on the other hand, is definitely walking in darkness. He’s full of himself, in love with the power he wields. He’s used to making life happen in fulfillment of his own desires. Herod isn’t seeking the will of God. On the contrary, he seeks to rid the world of God. He wants to do away with the baby Jesus. He’s ruthless in pursuit of that goal. He goes so far as to order the murder of all male children two years old and younger in the Bethlehem area, the Holy Innocents we remember today.


Just as the song title says, I want to walk as a child of the Light. I want to be like Joseph - kind, faithful, obedient, courageous, open to discerning and following the Lord’s plan for my life. Sometimes, though, I walk away from the Light and into darkness of my own making. Like Herod, I want things my way and I don’t want anything getting in the way of my desires. I want to be lord of my own life.

When you are praying today, ask for forgiveness for the times you have strayed from the Light into darkness. Lay before the Lord the erroneous paths you have followed. In his letter, John goes on to say that if we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and make us clean.

Ask for the grace to follow Joseph’s example, to live our lives in the Light of the Lord. Pray in the words of the songwriter: “I want to see the brightness of God; I want to look at Jesus. Clear Sun of righteousness, shine on my path, and show me the way to the Father.”