In preparing my reflections, I want to remember today: military men/women, our police and fire people, our nurses and doctors who staff hospitals and nursing homes, our sitters who take care of elderly, persons separated from families, those who are immigrants in a new land, those in prisons, those who feel alone, the sick, and those with sadness/grief in their lives.

Natchez is a beautiful city, but in the past few weeks it has taken on an extra beauty because of all the lights that are added for Christmas - store windows, in homes, in the ante-bellum plantations, in Memorial Park, along the Mississippi River bluff, in the Christmas displays on Broad Street, and in the churches of this city.

All these Christmas lights are special signs to us, and remind us of the great event we celebrate at Christmas - the first coming of God's own son into our world as a human being two thousand years ago. In hymns and in scripture readings we use the word 'Immanuel', meaning God has come among us.

The inspired word of God in the Bible tells us the central message.The great prophet, Isaiah, 700 years before His birth prophesied "A people who walk in darkness will see a great light," (Isaiah 1:1-3) John's Gospel, 40 years after the resurrection, tells us the light has come, it has shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John Ch 21).

These scripture verses put before us two very striking images, the image of darkness and the image of light. Darkness dulled the lives of many in a number of ways - poverty, diseases without a cure available, unemployment, burdensome taxes, instability in governing structures, corruption in leadership, and fear and anxiety about family and even life itself.

The LIGHT would be God's own Son in human form. A savior was promised at the time of the sin of Adam & Eve and God never forgot the promise. The people through the ages were reminded and prepared by the patriarchs and the prophets. When the time was right, God's messenger heard the willingness of Mary to be the mother of the long-awaited one.

John the Baptist introduced him to his own disciples "behold the lamb of God, behold Him who will take away the sins (darkness) of the world. The message of the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, was God loves all mankind, no sin is too great to be forgiven by a merciful God, God walks among us in the storms and darkness of our lives, and the GOOD NEWS is for all peoples, he brought healing to the sick/blind/lame, the promise of resurrection from the dead, and life with God for all eternity.

My question today, would you agree that we are a people who walk in DARKNESS, and still need this LIGHT in a our time? Think about our world, our community, our families ! I am prompted to raise this question because as I look around our world today, the world divided by war, many are still hungry, many are unemployed, sometimes our elected officials are not working together for the good of every person, many families are divided because of jobs, military, prison, jealousy, greed, there is anxiety in lives of individuals or families, there is still illness, broken families, a child or grandchild getting into trouble, elderly people afraid they won't be able to get medicine. We see discouragement, loneliness, rejection, despair.

I suggest questions not for the purpose of judging anyone but to prompt each of us to remember that "the light has come, and the darkness has not overcome it."
  1. Do you know someone that you consider to be in darkness? What is the reason for his/her "darkness" situation?
  2. Have you ever felt, or do you feel now that you are at a DARK place in your life?. How can the LIGHT (of God's own son) help you in this time of darkness?
  3. In what way have you ever been a source of LIGHT- encouragement, help, advice, guidance - for someone else?
  4. Have you ever been a barrier to the light in someone's life because of lack of forgiveness in your heart, jealousy, judging someone or talking badly about them, not talking to a family member, holding a grudge or taking advantage of another?
I believe that the celebration of Christmas is a needed source of light for most of us.
  1. The LIGHT has come among us as a human being - one of us, and the darkness will not overcome it. God is among us (Immanuel). Be grateful.
  2. The manger scene in our churches and homes is a reminder of that first coming, but we cannot remain at the manger. You and I have a task - find the LIGHT in our life today, and live it in our own life.
  3. Decide before we leave our church celebration or our family celebration to take one step of bringing the LIGHT to at least the people we live and work with. So, before you conclude your Christmas celebrations, make a decision on what you will do to spread the LIGHT.
My concluding Prayer is: O God, you gladden us year by year with the hope of our redemption, grant that as we celebrate His first coming, we will discover again His LIGHT in our life. Give us the wisdom to live in that LIGHT, and the commitment to share that LIGHT with those around us, so that one day we will live in that LIGHT forever. We make this prayer through Christ, the LIGHT. Amen.

Father David O'Connor, St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Church.

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Adoration of the Shepherds
Agnolo Bronzino