During the holiday season, we often talk about light and its benefits: warmth, clarity, discernment, and blessing.  We talk about Jesus as the light of the world, and we light the candles for Christmas/Hanukkah, remembering these miracles of light.  But one of the reasons we value light is because of the surrounding darkness.  As the holidays approach, it is easy to look around and see this darkness.  In the Middle East today, whenever we read the newspaper, turn on the television, or listen to what people are discussing around us, we hear a back and forth about imminent war, the lost opportunity for peace, and the ever-present Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
 
Darkness has several effects on people:
1. It disorients us, causing us to lose our point of reference.  It prevents us from distinguishing between good and bad, justice and injustice, and it causes us to misjudge many things.
2. It allows for evil to happen undetected, and allows evildoers to get away with their wicked actions.
3. It makes us complacent to other people’s suffering.
4. It makes us wary, fearful, and cautious. It can be uncontrollable, cold and overwhelming, stripping us of hope and joy.
5. In the Bible, evil and darkness seem to prevail when people do not take a stand for righteousness and justice.
6. Darkness causes the distinctiveness and uniqueness of humanity to disappear, and we become faceless.
 
What are we going to do?  How are we going to respond?  How do we make decisions during this time of confusion?  We have to be careful that we do not make decisions out of fear, and reflect on what God is trying to teach us during this period.  Sometimes darkness comes from God, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).  He tests our hearts, and sometimes sends darkness as judgment, or to discipline us.  During this period of darkness, we are vulnerable to deception, and there are many voices clamoring for our attention, claiming they know what to do.  During this time, we need to walk in humility, be strengthened by the community, and turn to the fundamental teaching of Jesus to love God and to love our neighbor.   
 
This is precisely the time that we need to rely on the Scriptures and Jesus’ teaching instead of on our own ability.  In spite of the hardship, we have to ask ourselves: Are we going to let ourselves be confused and misguided by the darkness, or are we going to cling to Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46)?
 
As this holiday season comes, let us reflect on our Savior, and seek his will for us during trying times.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  The darkness that hangs over us during this time will pass, and as we celebrate the festival of lights and remember the light of Jesus himself, we know that even the smallest light can be seen during the darkest of times.  “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.  For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:2).
 
By Salim J. Munayer
Musalaha Director