I stumble out of the tent into the frigid darkness. The trees are black and close, but, looking straight up, I see a sky flecked with billions of stars. It has been about fifteen minutes since I left the soft cocoon of my sleeping bag, and I am now cold all the way to my bones.
I lift the matches from the empty coffee pot where I stored them the night before and light the campfire I laid before going to bed. The newspaper is damp, but it catches all right, and pretty soon I hear the popping of burning wood, and flame licks the darkness. Leaving the matches over by the wood pile, I fill the coffee pot with water and snuggle it into the fire.
After a while, almost imperceptibly, the sky begins to lighten. The outlines of the trees become clearer, then I see the first hint of color. Even though I’m very cold, something in me relaxes. The light is dawning. It will soon be day.
How many sunrises I have waited for: trying to stay awake on a cross country car trip; huddled in inadequate blankets in a desert night; coiled against an intense pain I irrationally hope will ease with daylight; waiting on Christmas morning for that moment when I can go out to the living room to see what Santa brought. Each slow illumination: the incremental paling of frigid darkness until finally the sun crowns the horizon, is cause for primal joy. Rejoice! Light is coming into the world!
I am not a big fan of the Nicene Creed. In its day it was a good attempt at the articulation of things that are in essence impossible to put into words. But in nailing down the tenets of our faith, it became too narrow for the mystery that is a full relationship with God. And, while I appreciate the need to steer clear of heresies, we do need room to vision God in all the ways God desires to show themselves to us.
But the creed that is expressed in today’s reading, the prologue to the Gospel of John, will never cease to speak to me. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Today the light that is Christ is once again dawning into the depth of our deepest night. Soon we will see it climbing into the sky. Into the depths of our despair, our hopelessness, and our grief, it comes, slowly paling the darkness.
Have you had your Christmas moment yet this year? You know, the moment when all the clang-clanging of the world’s demands fall away and a new understanding or a new hope enters your heart? If it hasn’t yet come, don’t worry. There are ten more days of Christmas ahead. Join me here at my campfire as the coffee water starts to boil. Together we will watch the stars fade. And we will speak with hope the words John wrote all those centuries ago: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world.”