I think it’s curious that December becomes a month of increasing darkness and at the same time a series of light festivals. Both religious and secular communities celebrate the growing darkness, eagerly awaiting the return of the sunlight and springtime! At least up here in the northern hemisphere! (in the southern hemisphere they’re in spring and getting ready for summer).
Tonight the Jewish community begins the ancient festival of Hanukkah which is the commemoration of the rededication of the Temple (see 2 Maccabees 10;1-8) Western Christians mark the four Sundays preceding Christmas with the lighting of the successive candles of the Advent wreath. And for eight days following Christmas many African-Americans celebrate traditional family and tribal values with Kwanzaa, again, lighting a series of candles.
St. Francis of Assisi took significant time in prayer and preparation for the great festival of the Incarnation, Christmas. He knew the darkness that could penetrate one’s heart, and he knew that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World alone could enlighten him. He prayed before the San Damiano Cross, “. . . enlighten the darkness of my heart.”
We who are baptized have been enlightened by Christ. That is why we are given the baptismal candle, which is lit from the Easter Candle at each baptism. We have been delivered from the ancient curse of evil and sin, the Powers of Darkness. We have been brought into the Kingdom of Jesus, God’s incomparable Light (cf. Colossians 1:12-14).