If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,”
Darkness is not dark to you:
The night is as bright as the day;
Psalm 139:10-11b

 I encountered the first signs of Christmas in July this past summer while visiting family in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix had hit a high temperature of 120 degrees the day before, so it may not be surprising that on July 6 stores were pulling out their Christmas cards, lights and artificial trees! However, I noticed that Christmas seemed to arrive significantly earlier this year in Maryland as well. In August, my local Target displayed artificial Christmas trees alongside the Back to School supplies. In early October, Christmas cards shared shelf space with Halloween cards at my local grocery store. Christmas music serenaded me in the mall well before Thanksgiving. I wondered if I’d simply not noticed how early Christmas began in previous years, but then I heard an interview with a social psychologist who confirmed that signs of Christmas had indeed started earlier this year. Her sense was that the level of stress, uncertainty and seemingly never ending bad news, as well as the discord in our nation and our world, have now gotten to such a level that people are desperate to feel happier. Yearning for good news, they cling to the nostalgia of childhood Christmases.

Perhaps some of what we are searching for is a chance to experience the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes, perhaps even to witness the hope God gave all people on earth that very first Christmas: God incarnate, in the infant Jesus. That baby—Jesus—grew into a man who preached that God loves us unconditionally, just as we are. And though we constantly fall short, God continues to reach out to us as a loving parent continues to reach out to her child.

As followers of Christ, we often refer to ourselves as “people of the resurrection” or “Easter people” because we understand that Jesus overcame death that Easter morning so long ago. However, we first are “people of the manger.” Every year, at Christmas, we remember and we celebrate that even when our lives seem to be at the very darkest point, the light of the world—Jesus—came to remind us that to God, the darkness of the night is as light as the sky.

Advent time is a gift that God gives us in order that we might slow down to see the light in our daily lives that we perhaps are too busy, too tired, or too occupied looking at our phones to see. Where is Christ’s light shining in your life? How are you Christ’s light shining through your words and actions?