Given our Atlantic coastline, we all know about lighthouses. A lighthouse is designed to emit light to serve as a beacon for navigational aid, for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways. Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, rocks, and safe entries to harbours. I was inspired to write this reflection after learning of the memorial lobster trap Christmas tree tradition, made up of lobster traps with buoys and lights with a lighthouse on top. The buoys bear the names of people lost at sea. It is a memorial tree for all who did not return home. The lighthouse placed on top is to guide them home.
A lighthouse provides direction through the rough seas to the harbour of safe waters and home. We have lived through so many rough days together with Covid and most recently with the wind and rain of tropical storm Fiona and all the havoc that has followed. When we think of this image of the lighthouse, we might think of the bright star of Bethlehem guiding the pilgrims to the Christ-child. They too lived amid a sea of economic and political turmoil. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shone.” These words from the prophet Isaiah reverberate during our celebration of the Christmas Season.
There are so many concerns today: the illness or death of loved ones; rising costs of gas, food and everything essential; homelessness and food insecurity; access to medical care and viruses that continue to affect us; war and conflicts around the globe and millions of refugees with no place to call home; intergenerational trauma through residential schools; the future of our church as discernment continues for the upcoming Synod; and in general trying to carry on in faith amid so many issues. What are we to do?
We have every reason to hope that brighter and better days are ahead. The Christmas Season celebrates the birth of the Lord Jesus and the ways he manifested the presence of God among us. The Christmas Season reminds us of the goodness of our God and the people around us who are guided by God’s love and concern for all people. This Christmas Season brings out the best in people who try to brighten the lives of others. Yes, it is a season filled with partying and buying but it is also a season filled with sharing. This Christmas Season is highlighted by our neighbourly concern, generosity, and unselfish love. Such love is a light that pierces the darkness of our world. Such love is prompted and celebrated. God sent us the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ to be the Light of the World to guide and direct us. As we celebrate the coming of that Light, we become a light for others. When we live our faith we become a light to our world. Our faith does not free us from problems and hardships, but enables us to find peace, to persevere, and to hope because we know we are not alone. Faith assures us that God is with us in our struggles, and that the love of God and the peace that Jesus promised are ours for the asking. The lighthouse calls us to look to him for direction, especially amid turbulent waters. He will guide and direct us to a safe harbour and peaceful waters. He will guide us home.
May you have a peaceful Christmas, filled with love and joy.
+ Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish