I've been thinking about the statement about John the Baptist in John's Gospel: "He came as a witness to testify to the light ... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." The coming of the light is a source of hope; by contrast it also sharpens our awareness of the darkness. As Jesus says in Luke's Gospel: "For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light."
That is why so many oppose the coming of the light and the truth it reveals: the truth doesn't always put us in the "best light." The coming of the light can be upsetting, confronting us with the need to change. There is an undercurrent of unease in the expectation of Advent. We too easily miss the tension and conflict unleashed by the coming of the light, the birth of the Christ. There is nothing sentimental about Christmas.
The coming of the light reveals the torture chambers; the sweatshops where children toil; the "honor killings" of women murdered for the "crime" of being a victim; the fear and grief in our own hearts. Part of the suffering we are called to bear as followers of Jesus comes from simply acknowledging so much truth. Do we really hope for the coming of the light? How much truth can we stand?
The coming of the light at Christmas is the coming of the truth that sets us free. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, because he denies nothing and no one: he offers it all up to be transformed by God's deathless love, even to the point of his own self-offering on the cross in witness to all the painful truths of the world that we would rather not bear. The resurrection Jesus offers us follows from our acceptance of the light and all that it reveals. Advent is a time for joy, yes: thank God for the coming of the light that liberates us. But Advent is also a time for courage.