Do you know the deeper meaning of Christmas lights?

Photography © by Andy Coan

As fall moves onward towards winter we have places to go, things to do, people to meet.  Yet as we go about our business, we notice the days are getting shorter.  Sweaters come out of storage, we close the windows, and turn on the heat.

Advent is a season where we stop and remember that the light of this world is waning in more ways than one.   That the world as we know it is passing away.

The world “secular” comes from the Latin word for this present world with its priorities — getting a job, paying the bills, finding a mate.  Politics, economics, entertainment, sports are all realities of the secular world.  “Secularism” is the modern program that insists that this is all that there is.  A version popular in America says that there may be more to life than this, but it is entirely a private affair that you may not talk about in public.  God, higher values, heaven, are all out-of- bounds topics in school, politics, and the news media.

Secularism wants us to live under the illusion that things will always be the way they are.  There may be ups and downs in the economy, but it will keep humming along.  Elections may change the office holders, but the government will just keep on keeping on.  That’s the way people thought in Noah’s day.  But then the flood came (Matthew 24:37-44).

St. Paul calls this attitude being asleep (Romans 13:11-14).  God breaking into space and time, in a manger in Bethlehem, changed things forever.  The central moment of human history has come and gone; we’re in the end game now.  The things that now seem so real, so ultimate, will come to a crashing halt.

For many of us in December, the bleak light injects a dose of melancholy into our disposition.  But then we remember that “the holidays” are coming — there is something to look forward to!  We string lights on our shrubs and put candles in our windows to cheer ourselves up and thumb our nose at the darkness.

For Christians, these lights have a deeper meaning.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  At the moment when darkness of human society is at its deepest, the Light of the World will come.

So it is a waste of our time to get educated and employed?  Should we just spend our days praying, reading the Bible, and trying to predict dates for the Return of the King?

St. Paul sharply rebuked some for taking this approach.  As focused as Paul was on the age to come, he was thoroughly engaged in this one.  Besides his profound life of prayer and preaching, he labored with his hands to the point of exhaustion so as not be a burden on anyone, and have something to give to the needy.  He said that those that refuse to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).  The Second Vatican Council said that living for the future world should make us more, not less, committed to improving this one (Gaudium et Spes 37).

Besides, the Lord clearly says that his Second and final coming will be at the time we least expect it (Matthew 24:44).  If God is purposely designing it to be a surprise, I don’t think there is much hope of outsmarting Him.

So what do we do about His Coming?  Very simple.  By the power of his grace, let’s make sure that when the Light arrives that it won’t for us be a cruel light.  Are there things in your life that you’d rather not be seen by God and everyone else?  Then you’d best get busy rooting them out of your life.  Because the Light will reveal all.

Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A) — Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit or call 1.800.803.0118.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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