Stepping out of the darkness

So what do Isaiah, the times we live in and the message of the theme song from Frozen, “Let It Go,” and stewardship have in common? (I know you are thinking that this has to be a stretch.) Let’s take a moment to reflect.

The prophet Isaiah provides us with one of the most familiar and hopeful Old Testament/Advent passages when he writes: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9:2). The Gospel of Matthew points that his great light is Jesus as he begins in ministry in Mt 4:12-16. For you and me, it is the reality of the Incarnation and the hope of eternal salvation.

As we prepare for the coming of our Savior at Christmas, we are asked to change our human hearts and habits and embrace the brilliance of the light of Christ in a new way. This light promises to help us grow in wisdom. It shows us a path to joy and peace that is contrary to cultural roadways. It is our call that the light shines brighter for us each year that we are given.

It has taken me awhile on my faith journey to know that I can actually step out of my own personal darkness and embrace the warmth and glow of Christ. Yes, our humanness keeps us in a dim lighted world. Our sinfulness hinders us from experiencing the full exposure of God’s message of love. But it is also that humanness that allows us to choose our next move. It is in that space where we can let go of our struggle with the “unholy” and truly take ownership of our title as “children of God.”

I think Pope Francis spoke to this when he responded to the question: “Who are you?” in an interview by saying, “I am a sinner.” Yet, wherever he goes, the brilliant light of Christ shines through and his messages have a sense of urgency. He is calling us to come out of the darkness and into the light sooner than later. He is calling us to do it personally as well as collectively as a church.

Today’s trying times, which include so much human suffering, are the direct result of you and me wanting to remain in the shadows of sin where Christ’s light cannot fully reach us. It is difficult to give up our fear and pride, which so often drive our prejudices, self-centeredness and selfishness. Like Isaiah said of his day, we too are dwelling in a land of gloom. Yet the light is there for us any time we choose to make our move. I don’t know about you, but I have heard Isaiah’s message in Advent many times. We are constantly being invited.

Seeing the “great light” is one thing, but allowing it to flow through us is the call of the true disciple and is what will change our neighborhoods, nation and the world. Sometimes we think that the answer to our country’s issues or the world’s problems can be found in a political party or by simple acts of human kindness.

Sometimes we do relieve suffering in those ways. Yet by preparing for and celebrating the Incarnation, we are saying that it is the light of Christ that shines within us that is the answer to true peace and joy. As a professed disciple, you and I are not looking for just the best decisions or choices, we are looking for a conversion to Christ. It is only by stepping out of our personal darkness that will get us there. Spreading the light of Christ will change the world.

So many of us have experienced the movie Frozen through grandchildren, the media etc. What a celebration of hope and overcoming obstacles. The soundtrack song, “Let it Go,” by Indina Menzel captured the hearts of children and adults alike. Like Elsa in the movie Frozen, who lived in the shadows because of fear, we are being empowered and challenged to stand in the truth of who we are and who we follow. You and I can “let go” of all those things that hinder God’s love from shining brightly on all of humankind. We as Christian stewards can make a difference because we are standing in the light of the Way, the Truth and the Life. Blessings and Merry Christmas everyone!

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.