This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached for a Blue Christmas service on December 18, 2022. The gospel reading I preached on was John 1:1-14. You can watch the service here. The gospel reading and sermon begin around 14:30.
I think there are at least two sides to Christmas. One of them is the one we see most often around us – a celebration of unbridled joy. So many Christmas songs, so many Christmas movies, even our Christmas Eve services here, are such a celebration. And there’s a place for that.
But that’s not all there is to Christmas. Which is good, because for some of us, unbridled joy just isn’t there right now. Some of us have trouble finding any joy right now, because we are grieving or sad, lonely or confused. These are normal human feelings, but at this time of year they can feel so out of place. At a time when the world seems focused only on the light, some of us know nothing but deep darkness.
But there is another side of Christmas, a more subtle side, perhaps a deeper side, perhaps even a truer side, and it is precisely for those who know darkness. For us. And it is good news, such good news. This is the side of Christmas we explore at this service each year.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon an image that I believe expresses this deep side of Christmas. I don’t know who the artist is. But when I saw it, I was blown away. I just stared at it, seeing more the more I looked. I’m going to share this image with you, and I invite you to take a few minutes and look at it. See what it stirs in you. Then I’ll share a few reflections on what I see in it.
Now I’ll tell you what I see here, and why it spoke to me.
I see two images next to one another, blending into each other but also separate. One the left, a colorful image with blues and reds. On the right, a bright golden image. They sit next to each other, but don’t quite connect.
The image on the right appears to me to be a Christmas star. This star seems to be exploding out of the screen, shining so much golden light that it can’t be contained by the painting. Notice how the rays of the star go beyond the edges of the screen, how one or two of the rays are pushing into the image on the left.
On the left, I see a person. There are two shapes there, almost two circles, a smaller one on top of a larger one. They form the head and body of the person I see. Let’s call him the man in blue. Because all around him there is deep blue. And within him there is blue as well. The man in blue knows the blue of life, inside and out. The sadness, the despair, the grief. He knows what it is to be blue at Christmas. He sees next to him the bright and shining Christmas star, the overflowing joy of Christmas. That star is next to him, yet so far away. It does not touch him. That Christmas joy may be there, but it’s not for him.
Perhaps the Christmas star on the right represents the unbridled joy of Christmas Eve worship, while the man in blue on the left represents today’s worship, Blue Christmas.
But there’s more. There’s hope. If you look within the man in blue, the golden light is there as well. It doesn’t shine the same way that the star does. It isn’t exploding out of the screen. But it is very much there. It shines. It shines within the man in blue. And if you look closely, you will see that the blue within him is lighter than the blue outside. Perhaps because the light is shining there. Perhaps the light that shines within him makes the blues feel less blue.
I believe the golden light in this image is the light of Christmas. It shines brightly like a star, but it also shines just as strongly, yet differently, more quietly, more peacefully, within our darkest hours.
And that’s the hope of Christmas for us, for us, the people in blue. We may not experience the bright shining star of Christmas this year, and maybe that’s okay. Because maybe we will glimpse the light that is shining within.
Isaiah wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”
John wrote, “What has come into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
As Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”
If you are like the man in blue this Christmas season, take heart. The light still shines. That’s the gift of Christmas.