Summary: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Television has been busy for the past month with Christmas Specials. It seems everyone in the entertainment industry has to have one. Lots of fairy tale settings, warm fire places and goodies to eat. All happiness and light. This is the "imagined" Christmas, how things are supposed to be.

I wonder about the street people just around the corner from Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, huddled over heating grates in brutal winter weather. I wonder about the homeless people in Washington, D.C. who might look through the gates of the White House to see the Christmas tree being lit, if they weren’t so concerned with surviving.

As we gather to light candles and sing carols, we are reminded of people who have "walked in darkness", then and now. We read from Isaiah a hopeful message of a child being born but very much into a situation of darkness. For the people to whom it was written, and for the people who claimed it as a prophecy of the Messiah, and for us, it is really about living in darkness -- knowing darkness in our lives and looking to God as the one who gives hope and light.

The passage is really about living under threat in a world that is beyond our control, a world that lies in the hands of leaders who make selfish, stupid and even cowardly decisions, who refuse to trust God. It is about a darkness of economics and morality that threatens to suffocate us.

To those who know what it is to live in darkness, to live with pain and suffering, this passage is about hope, it is about a light that can lighten darkness.

The Bus Trip by Garth Buchholz (Canada Lutheran 1998)

When I was nineteen, I celebrated the tradition of Christmas Eve, but not the Christ of Christmas Day. I neither knew nor cared to know the person whose birthday party I had been celebrating. After I finished high school, I began working at a downtown hotel, and was more interested in my relationship with my girlfriend than with some ancient god. Yet I enjoyed the warmth of Christmases spent with my family and friends.

That Christmas evening, when only the lights in the dark suburban streets were Christmas lights, and few persons had any reason to go outdoors, I ventured out to visit my girlfriend. She lived a fair distance away, so I had to catch a bus. They were only running about every half hour, but I didn’t mind waiting. It was a greeting card Christmas -- tiny lace doilies of snow came down like a benediction, with hardly a breeze to delay their fall to the white carpet on the ground.

I was carrying a Christmas gift for my girlfriend, wrapped in a pink ribbon and bow. . . . finally a transit bus appeared, and approached my stop slowly. When its doors slammed open, I walked up the steps quickly and sat at the front facing the driver. There were no other passengers.

As the bus pulled away, the driver turned and smiled at me. He was a sturdy, middle-aged man with grey hair and a solid paunch above his belt. His regulation transit uniform was slightly wrinkled but clean.

"Where you going, son? Visit your family for Christmas?"

No, I said, I’m going to visit my girlfriend. I’ve got a Christmas gift for her.

"I see that," he said, "What’s your name? My name’s Andy."

Garth, I said, my name’s Garth.

"That’s nice you got your girl something. How old is she, Garth?"

Sixteen, I replied.

"You go to School -- high school?"

No, I said, but my girlfriend’s still in school. I want to go to university, though, when I can afford it.

"Good, that’s good. Your girl’s sixteen, eh? I’ve got a daughter not much older. My daughter’s eighteen. She’s living in Vancouver now. . . "

I used to live there, I interrupted, but I’d rather here now. I told my girlfriend we should visit B.C. someday, and she said that. . .

"My daughter lives out there," the driver repeated as if to himself," and she’s sick so my wife and I have to fly out there tomorrow to take her home."

Oh, I said. I hope she feels better soon. Is she . . .

"She’s a beautiful girl," Andy said tenderly. "You want to see a photo of her?"

Before I could answer, Andy had fished a phot out of his shirt pocket as if he had done it several times that evening. I leaned forward to look closely. It was a graduation picture.

"She overdosed on drugs."

I sat back in my seat, not sure what to say. He looked into my face to see my reaction.

"Her name is Lori, short for Loretta. We named her after Loretta young the actress."

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