Community Blog Light in the Darkness: A Christian Perspective

By Rev. Tom Reid
winter tree branch

Tom ReidIt is hard to believe it is already December and that we are only weeks away from the end of 2022. Soon we will see a growing flurry of end-of-year donation requests, retrospective lists (highs and lows), and predictions and resolutions for the new year.

While Christmas and Hanukkah do not occupy the same position of importance in the Christian and Jewish liturgical calendars respectively, and our understandings of the symbolism of light differ, they both point to a common ancient human desire to bring more light and warmth into our hearts, homes, and communities during the darkest and coldest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

For many Western Christians (primarily Catholics and Protestants), we have entered a new liturgical season with the first two Sundays of Advent, a period leading up to the remembrance of Jesus’s birth celebrated on December 25th.

Advent comes from the Latin advenire—meaning “to come.” It is a preparatory season with a dual focus that directs our attention to both the past and the future. As Christians, we remember the moment two thousand years ago when God entered our midst physically in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And we look forward to the future redemption God holds for the universe. In Christian thought, this includes the second coming of Christ and the inauguration of a time of universal peace and justice. It is a difficult tension to hold, and one that is often ignored in favor of the more comfortable images of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and gift giving.

As Christians prepare for the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, when temperatures drop and the days get shorter and darker, we focus our attention on discovering the light of divinity already in our midst and rededicating ourselves to walking in the path of Jesus.

Generally, there are four Advent candles, one for each of the Sundays of the season, and a fifth candle in the middle of the wreath, that is often called the “Christ candle.” The Christ candle in the middle is usually white. We add a candle each Sunday, culminating with all five candles being lit together for the first time on Christmas Eve. The growing number of candles to be lit marks the progression of the season and the approach of Jesus, whom Christians refer to as “the Light of the World,” whose light shines in the darkness as described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

So as the weather becomes colder and the days become shorter, the Miller Center team and our Hebrew College family wish you all a season filled with light, peace, hope, and love.

Rev. Tom Reid is the Associate Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and serves as pastor of Newton Presbyterian Church in Newton Corner. Before changing careers to ordained ministry, Tom spent over ten years working in a variety of fields including: clean energy and innovation in Boston, environmental and green building consulting in Boston and Dubai, and business education in Madrid, Spain. Tom is a proud alumnus of the University of Kansas, holding a BA in Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish. He also holds an MA in Contemporary European Politics, Policy, and Society funded by a Fulbright grant to the European Union and an MDiv from Boston University School of Theology with a certificate in Religion and Conflict Transformation.

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