And God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind. . . and it was so."
And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
These verses from Genesis aren't usually a part of the Christmas story that we retell at this time of year. I've always wondered why. This year I decided to stop wondering and just go ahead. So our Christmas cards will have a different look this year. Only the envelopes are white--because they were given to us as a gift. The cards are in the pale green of early spring and the yellows and beiges and blues of summer and fall--all the seasons that have more light than winter when we celebrate the birth of Christ.
No silver bells. No red or deep green of traditional Nordic Christmases. Jesus wasn't born in Norway or Sweden or Germany or Alaska. And he probably wasn't born in the winter when no shepherds would have been out with the flocks since the pastures then would have been grazed out and nearly dormant.
John's gospel helps us out. John begins with the beginning, where the creative and active and powerful logos, or "Word" of God, was bringing all things into being--beginning with the light. You don't have to get very far in John's gospel to run into the significance of light.
The light that enlightens all humanity was coming into the world...
From then on, it's all about seeing the light.
Our cards this year will show things made by the hand of God, all of which required the light God made in order to create them. That includes even the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. Had it not been for the hundreds, if not more, cataclysmic Bretz floods resulting from the glacial melt and the gigantic inland lake formed in western Montana, there would be no Columbia Gorge as we know it. And the soil around our house would not be filled with rounded, smoothed stones, some the size of apricots and others the size of Volkswagen beetles. These rocks and boulders and the megatons of soil were washed here by the floods, the rocks having been tumbled hundreds and hundreds of miles to make them smooth.
All of it was caused by the return of the light. So our cards will celebrate the marvelous gifts brought by that light on the earth, and they are made in the colors of the seasons of light.
At the Vigil of Easter on the dark Saturday night before the dawn of the day, a fire is lighted outside and there is a procession by candlelight into a worship sanctuary darkened to resemble a tomb hewn in rock. Thrice these words are chanted:
Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
And the antiphon chants in reply:
The light no darkness can overcome.
May the light of Christ fill your hearts in all days and seasons, especially now.