“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
The Christmas season is over. The carols are finished. The tree is taken down. Family members have flown or driven back home. The stillness in our homes is profound.
For some of us our hearts ache that we have to wait an entire year to have the house filled with the joy, energy, and love we experience during the Christmas season. Others of us breathe a sigh of relief that we can go back to our routine, a house permeated with silence, a chance to get healthy again. (If anyone saw me ‘sleep walking’ at the 11am Mass on Sunday, I think you know which side I’m on ;))
Whatever side of the fence you land on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the real work of Christmas now begins. In our first reading for this Sunday, God is reminding the Israelites that they must be a light to the nation. It’s not all about them. They are a chosen people so that they may share salvation with the whole world. You and I may not be Israelites, but we ARE adopted children of God. That promise and call to the Israelites is now ours.
It’s a difficult challenge for us as humans to look beyond our families, our clan, our church, our village, our nation, our people. We seek protection and feel safe when we focus on ourselves and our descendants, keeping others at an arm’s length away. We hope they succeed, but we’d much prefer to focus on helping our own, people who think and act like we do, people like us. God could have just as easily told his children, the Israelites, that he would bless them and love them and make them a wealthy nation and end there. But he didn’t. He added a clause: SO THAT they would be a light to the nations. It’s easy (most of the time) to love our family, give all we have to our children, open our homes at Christmas, pull up the extra chair at the table for the relative, but God asks us to extend that love with that oh so difficult extra clause: SO THAT we may go out to be a light to the nations.
The real work of Christmas must now begin. We’ve been filled with the light of Christ. Emmanuel, God with us, has made his home with us. Now we are charged to bring Christ’s light to the world. We’ve shared our gifts with our family, but what about the needy? We’ve fed our family, but now, what about our neighbors? There’s an old saying: “If you are more fortunate than others, it is better to build a longer table than a taller fence.” It’s time we pull up a few extra chairs to our table. But to whom in your life do you need to welcome to the table? With whom do you need to share your gifts? For whom do you need to seek and fight for justice and peace? How can we heal this broken planet together?
I hope your Christmas season was full of joy, peace and love surrounded by family and friends. Now God has charged us to bring his light to the ends of the earth. Now the work of Christmas begins. Let’s get to it!