He has given us light

    December 7, 2023
    Advent reflection day 5 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green.

    In our first reading from Isaiah, I can’t ignore the stark reality of the ongoing violence in the Holy Land, the very place referred to as the Land of Judah — encompassing both Israel and Palestine. The prophetic song portrays a protected city held in peace, emphasizing the Lord’s power in humbling the lofty, causing them to crumble and be leveled with dust. The ongoing war is like a distortion of this vision of God’s justice — rather than bringing down those in high places, people are being massacred.

    As a result of this war, Christmas is canceled in Bethlehem.

    How is it that the birthplace of Christ Jesus won’t be celebrating the Son of God’s incarnate entrance into human history?

    As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the people in my own neighborhood here in Seattle, WA, in the United States, for whom perhaps Christmas is also canceled. Perhaps the violence canceling Christmas is that of addiction, poverty, food insecurity, a broken and unjust immigration system, domestic and sexual abuse, police killings, modern slavery in the form of human trafficking, a biased and discriminatory criminal justice system, gun violence, mental illness, exclusion, isolation, loneliness. So much violence can seemingly take the light of Christ out of Christmas.

    But then the psalmist reminds us that, “The Lord is God, and he has given us Light.” Receiving God’s light is not a passive act but a call to action — to shine, be, and give light. The act of canceling Christmas in Bethlehem is one of bold solidarity with neighbors experiencing the violence of the war.

    As I navigate this sacred season, I want to reflect on the actions I can take to shine a light on injustice, to maintain faith in the face of a suffering world, and to cultivate peace on personal, interpersonal, and collective levels. I invite you to join me, and the Holy Spirit, in co-creating peace and justice in our communities and in our world.

    Kelly Hickman serves as the Director of Development for Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest and President of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Edward Parish in Seattle, WA, where she lives.

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