There is a forbidding verse in the 12th chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel: Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Imagine what our neighbours, our colleagues, our schoolmates might think if they knew what we said in secret. Would our friends feel betrayed? Would our enemies take delight?
All manner of secrets have been shouted this year from the housetops. The reports in Ireland and Germany and elsewhere about cover-ups in the Church; the WikiLeaks cables that revealed the secret briefings of American diplomats; the video evidence that exposed abuse of police power in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa — all this was to be kept hidden, and it is has now been revealed. We fear the light because we know what we do in the dark.
As journalists, the premise of our service is that it is better to know, better to reveal, better to publish. The truth, no matter how ugly, is better than lies, no matter how pretty. The genuine good cannot be pursued by hiding the truth. So what is done in secret appears on the front page and is shouted on cable news and leaps from inbox to inbox.
But what if it were good news? What if a light were to come into the darkness, and the darkness were not able to overcome it? That is the good news of Christmas as Saint John tells us. Into all the world’s dark places, and into the deeper darkness that lurks in the heart of man, a light has come.
Christians proclaim at Christmas this good news. Candles are placed in winter windows and pilgrims make their way to Midnight Mass — in the darkness the light is sought. There is good news and it too remains secret at first. The birth of the newborn king, the eternal Son of the Father come in the flesh, the long-promised messiah, a mighty redeemer — this was a secret at first, known to Mary and Joseph and the angels and the shepherds. The rest of the world took no notice of what happened that night in the little town of Bethlehem.
The WikiLeaks cables told us something of the hidden world of the great capitals. What are the insiders saying in London and Paris and Rome and Moscow and Tokyo and Beijing? What are they writing back to Washington?
The Christian understanding is that there is another history, a sometimes-hidden history that reveals the true story of the world, told in its proper depth. It unfolds in the Sinai desert, in a stable in Bethlehem, on a cross in Jerusalem, in the work of martyrs and saints in places far away from the chancelleries and parliaments. This hidden story of God’s love breaks into history even as a flickering flame banishes the darkness.
Christians are no longer a curious sect at the margins of the Roman empire. They gather during this holiday in the most magnificent buildings in the great cities. The birthday of Jesus Christ is not something hidden or secret. Yet there are still places where the Christian message is a light that comes to much darkness, in places still closed to this good news, places where Christians live in fear this day.
And in those countries built on the Christian tradition but which have since cast it aside, the Christmas question retains its force: What difference does this baby born in Bethlehem make? Is the story of this world only the one told in newspapers and history books? Or is there another realm, another source of good news, another history, which tells the truth about this world and our place in it? We know the darkness. Is it true that there is still a light?
We tell the stories of our time as best as we can here at the National Post. We report much darkness, for it is real. But at Christmas, many of us find it important to remember the light as well. In this spirit, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas.