“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
Have you ever walked through a season of darkness?
Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, were diagnosed with a serious illness, or had someone close to you diagnosed with a serious illness.
Perhaps you’ve felt rejected, alone, and abandoned by people who you thought loved you. Maybe this abandonment led to thoughts of feeling inadequate or unworthy of other people’s love.
Maybe there have been moments when you’ve resonated more acutely with the troubles of the world, overwhelmed by the senseless violence, cruelty, division, poverty, and hunger.
Darkness comes in many forms, but it is a reality that we all experience.
In this darkness, however, another reality persists. Our souls yearn for light—even if just a glimmer. This glimmer can come in the form of a short text from a friend who lets you know they’re thinking of you. Sometimes it’s a song that puts words to the feelings of your heart. It could be a smile from a complete stranger or a hug from a parent.
These small glimmers of light touch our souls and remind us that even though things are not as they should be, hope does not disappoint.
This is what makes Christmas such a remarkable holiday and why the vast majority of Americans claim to celebrate it in some form.
Decorating with lights, caring for the poor and downtrodden, giving gifts—traditions universally associated with Christmas—are celebrated by people from a variety of cultural backgrounds and beliefs. In fact, many Christmas traditions have developed independently from Christianity. The origins of celebrating Christmas in the middle of winter, for example, was not a result of a historical account of the birth of Jesus; rather, it was to mark the end of the season of the longest nights in the year.
Christians, however, have a distinct understanding as to why hearts are brightened by the traditions that most people—regardless of their background or religious affiliation—celebrate.
Embedded within every human soul is the recognition of this present darkness and a longing for light to overcome it.
The Old Testament, the portion of the Bible that recounts events before Jesus is born, tells stories of people who continually walk in darkness, searching for light. And yet, they find that they cannot sustain a light that can overcome the darkness of their own personal failures and the inherent shortcomings of their humanity, a darkness caused by sin.
While glimmers of hope come in the form of mighty kings and faithful prophets who deliver people out of oppression, showing some semblance of flourishing, the gravitational pull of their own human flaws ultimately proves too strong, forcing the people back into captivity.
Even the small glimmers of light provided by the kings and prophets weren’t from within them— they were mere reflections of the true light that was to come, the only light powerful enough to overcome darkness.
But this true light was still a long way off. Hundreds of years of silence follow the final words recorded in the Old Testament.
If you’ve walked through a season of darkness, you can relate to this period. The feeling of abandonment—you’re all alone. The feeling of shame—you’ve finally proven yourself to be unworthy. The feeling of hopelessness—things will always be this way. The feeling that the darkness is permanent.
It’s easy to imagine, then, after centuries of darkness, the exhilaration that must have descended upon the souls of those who had waited for the light—their Messiah—who would save them from their sins as promised so many years before:
For Christians, this entrance of light into the world infuses a deeper meaning and purpose into everything that makes up the Christmas season—the warmth experienced from Christmas lights, the joy that comes from serving the poor and giving gifts. All of these traditions are glimmers of light that remind us of the true light of the world who came as good news for the poor and the poor in spirit.
Likewise, the flourishing that we seek to create and experience here on earth enriches the souls of everyone around us because, in a world that can feel so dark, goodness, beauty, and truth serve as hope-filled glimpses of the true light to come.
And so it can be with investing.
As investors of all backgrounds and beliefs seek to invest in companies that create value for the world by meeting important needs, we can celebrate the light of God’s goodness shining in the world. And even though the world is not as it should be, Christians believe this goodness points to the way it one day will be.
At Eventide, this understanding that goodness can come through investing keeps us humble, believing that neither we nor the companies we invest in are the true light that is capable of ultimately overcoming darkness.
But it also keeps us hopeful because the baby that came to be the light of the world would later stand on a mountain and empower his followers to join with him in pushing back the darkness:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)