By James H. Snowden
esus was born into a dark world. Politically it was bound. Despotism constricted and strangled it at the top, and at the bottom its millions were shackled slaves. Intellectually it was decadent. Philosophy had stopped and stagnated in Athens, and no fresh current of thought was irrigating the world, no new light was breaking upon the human mind. Religiously its pagan faiths were outworn and dying or dead. Judaism itself had gone to seed and was only a dry husk. Morally the world was terribly corrupt, from its lowest slums up to the palaces of the rich where sensuality ran riot. As a consequence of these conditions, pessimism spread a dark pall over the world. Men everywhere were in despair. They entertained the darkest and bitterest views of life. Nothing seemed to them worth while. The world was all a muddle, and the human heart cried out that life
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Into this dark world Jesus was born. He was only a babe, a single speck in the vast mass of humanity, but this Babe was luminous and shone with heavenly light. A star shed its radiance over his cradle—symbol and prophecy of his mission. As he grew in years he grew in luminosity until he lighted up Palestine and shot some rays across the borders of that little land into the great world. Death could not quench his growing light, but he rose to heaven, as the sun rises to its zenith, whence his light now falls in increasing splendor over all the world.
This Light has been shining nineteen hundred years and it has made a wide and deep impression on the darkness. Open the map of the world, and its bright spaces correspond with and are largely caused by the shining of this Light. The teachings and spirit and power and personality of Jesus are illuminating the world. Political despotism and slavery cannot live under the light of his gospel of brotherhood and are fleeing from his presence. Intellectual light is flooding all Christian lands: has it not been touched by his torch? Moral darkness is being penetrated and dissipated by the purity and peace of Christ. Pessimism meets its match and victor in his mighty jubilant optimism. He clears the world of the muddle of its confusion and turns it into our Father’s house. He lifts life up and makes it worth while in its great and grand meaning.
As from the uplifted hand of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor there shoots a sheaf of electric light that illuminates all the bay, so from the pierced hand of Christ there shines a blaze of light that penetrates and scatters the darkness of the world. We live in this Light. This is the meaning and true blessing of Christmas time. This is the real joy that breaks over the world on Christmas morning. All our gifts derive their significance from this Gift; all our joys are scintillations of this Light.
O thou Light of the world! In thy Light help us to see light. May sin not wrap us in darkness, may not a worldly life breed in us a spirit of bitterness and despair. Shine upon us with the light of thy truth and thy love. Light up the world for us so that we shall see it as our Father’s house. May thy presence put a deeper, richer, gladder meaning into all our life and pour a new splendor over all the world. And may nations come to thy Light and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
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