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The Shadow at Christmas
At Christmas we may be trying so hard to be full of peace and joy
that the part of us all to which we exile our less admirable
qualities -- our shadow in Jungian terms -- may now be particularly
Into our shadow, beyond our sight and knowing, we consign our
aggressiveness, our resentment, our bitterness, our deceitfulness.
We so want things to be beautiful and perfect. We so want to be
beautiful and perfect ourselves -- "all is calm, all is bright" --
that our less admirable, less acceptable qualities can really go on
I remember the Family Christmas Eve services as telling in this
regard. Up at the front a young mother, taking the part of Mary,
holds her seemingly angelic newborn. Off to the side, just outside
the circle of light, her other two children are raising holy hell.
Something similar takes place on the larger social plane. We want
everything to be beautiful now, but then some terrible tragedy or
crime shatters our longed for peace. How often that seems to happen
precisely during the week of Christmas.
Just as we are set to rejoice and sing glad tidings, a plane is
blown apart and falls from the sky -- the result of a terrorist
bomb. Or a devastating winter flood sweeps away homes and hopes just
days before Christmas. Or a ghastly murder shatters lives and mocks
When such things happen, we may want to declare the whole Christmas
thing to be bunk. In one sense it is. Our effort to make everything
-- including us -- look perfect is bunk.
But if Christmas means anything, it is not that we have finally
achieved holiness or perfection. It is that though we are in so many
ways broken and lost, dwelling as the prophet Isaiah put it ďin a
land of deep shadow,Ē God yet comes to us. God enters our darkness.
God comes to us in the shadows, comes especially to those outside
the light. God knows our pain and sorrow. God knows our failure and
fault. And yet, God loves us, holds us, and says -- in the face of a
newborn child -- there is grace, there is grace for you, grace for
"Letís start over. Letís try again."