One of my best friends. Dawn, struggles with depression. For her, this means that she isolates herself and goes from work to home, home to work. She cries over things that aren’t worth crying over, like when her boss yells at her or when her sister tells her how happy she is with her husband and two children, the family Dawn wishes she had. Recently, we went out for a nice dinner with the intentions of painting the town red. But Dawn’s eyes had no fire in them. She wanted to go home. The light had gone out within her.
Sadly, Dawn’s depression is not uncommon. I have spoken with many people, young and old, male and female, single and married, church-goer and non church-goer, who feel disillusioned by the hardships of life, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed. Those who suffer like this face each day with a bit of dread, and their own light is struggling to shine within them
John, a good man that I know through the prison system, was not disillusioned or anxious about life when he was 19. He was actually happy and cavorting about the streets. But one day, unintentionally, he got himself into a whole heap of trouble. John is from a rough neighborhood, and one day some 12 years ago, his best friend’s girlfriend was slashed across the face with a knife by a kid from the neighborhood. John accompanied his best friend to confront the boy, and as one thing lead to another, John found himself with the gun. He shot the kid from the neighborhood. He killed him. John was sentenced to 15 year in prison without parole and all the happiness and goodwill he had in his heart was lost. He became angry and blamed everyone but himself for the crime he had committed. When he came to Fishkill Correctional Facility, a men’s medium security prison which you can see off of Interstate 84, he was bitter and mean. He had a reputation even before arriving at the prison and was feared. In his eyes was darkness. The light had gone out within him.
While most of us will never commit murder, anger and blaming others for our problems runs rampant among us. We feel we deserve more than we have. We are sick and tired of the demands placed upon us. We feel wronged by those who are supposed to love us most. We face each day lost and lonely. Darkness looms large. Our own light is struggling to shine within us.
Where is God in all of this, we wonder. For many of us, believing in God means putting our faith and hope in a divine being outside of ourselves. This means that we put ourselves in a powerless situation waiting for God, who is out there, external to us, to rescue us from ourselves and that which we struggle with. It’s no wonder that so many people end up feeling bitter towards God and helpless. It’s no wonder that many of us stop believing. In trying to be faithful, we give our power away and we lose our accountability and responsibility. In doing this, we miss out on being the children of God we are created to be.
Scripture says that “In [Jesus Christ] was life, and that life was the light of all people” (John 1:4). Jesus brings light to the world. But so many of us feel that our light has been extinghished for one reason or another. Relationsihps, money, work, demands, not having the life we believe we deserve, you name it. Many of us feel lost in darkness as though the light has gone out within our souls.
But tonight, we celebrate and rejoice in the incarnation, that God came to earth to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ. We aren’t just remembering a historical event that took place 2000 years ago halfway around the world though. Tonight, we are rejoicing and celebrating in that light which was in Jesus that has been given to us as the children of God. Tonight, Jesus is being born again in the hearts of all who believe, and he is lighting the fire of life within us once again, dispelling the darkness we have known. On this most sacred of evenings, consider that God has come to dwell in you. Jesus was a human being with the divine inside of him. The miracle of Christmas is that we are human beings with the divine inside of us also, bringing us alive, filled with light.
To have faith in God is to let the Christ child grow inside of you so that as you think, speak and act, it is Christ thinking, speaking and acting in you. You become the light just as he was the light. Jesus remains present in the world through each of us. As Paul proclaims in Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Think what this means then. The power of God is no longer something completely external to yourselves, something you are waiting for, something you have no control over. The power of God dwells in you. To believe in God is to believe in yourself. To have faith in God is to have faith in yourself. To have confidence in God is to have confidence in yourself. And to trust in God is to trust in yourself because you and God are one, like Jesus and the Father are one.
The depression that rules you, the anger that strangles your joy, the bad habit or addiction that diminishes your life, with the light of God in you, you will find the power to choose differently, to choose happiness over sorrow, health over destruction. The worry over money that keeps you up at night and on edge during the day, with the light of God in you, you will have a new perspective from which to approach the world. That cycle of blame and regret you have with your loved one, with the light of God in you, you will break that cycle by becoming someone who responds rather than reacts and someone who listens before you speak.
To have faith in God is to have confidence and trust in yourself as a child of light.
By the grace of God, my friend Dawn, now knows that the Living God lives inside of her. She has taken action to overcome her depression, her anxiety and fears. She is currently cultivating a life that encompasses much more than home and work. She is seeking her dream of marriage and family. She is taking care of herself. As someone who cares deeply about her, I am happy to say that the light has been rekindled within her. The light of God now shines in her soul
And John, who is still serving his time in prison, is a changed man. No longer does anger and blame fill his heart. By the grace and power of God, he has spent the last 12 years transforming himself. I saw him on Monday night. He was valedictorian of the Rising Hope class of 2010, a college level program offered in the prison. I saw a light in his eyes, and he could not stop smiling. (He had a huge grin. His smile made me smile). He told me that he had been resurrected from the dead and transformed both inside and out. He no longer felt and thought and acted like he did so many years ago. I am happy to say that the light has been rekindled within him. The light of God now shines in his soul.
Just a few days ago, I saw a full moon and a sky filled with stars. It was glorious and lit up both the sky and the earth. That light comes from God, but that is not the only light that comes from God There is also light inside of each of us. If no one ever told you this before, listen to these words tonight, the light of God shines within you. And with the birth of Jesus on this night, that light is being rekindled in your soul once again.
Just like there are billions of stars up there shining down upon the billions of people on the earth, so too is that light from God shining within us all. From depressed to hopeful. From angry to joyful. From unfulfilled to content. Whatever the situation, whoever you may be, the baby is being born and he is bringing light into your life. On this night, may the light be rekindled within us all. This year, Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.