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The holidays are billed as a joyous time of the year. Images of misty-eyed adults singing Silent Night at the candlelight service and wonder-eyed children on Christmas morning are part of what comes to mind. The music sings of having a holy jolly Christmas, or paints the picture of the tender birth scene of our Lord, surrounded by shepherds and kings, angels and creatures, all basking in the warm glow of an amazing star, shining bright in the heavens. For many people, however, the approaching holidays are not a joyous time. As families gather, the pain of lost family and friends is felt more sharply. Other losses of relationships, health or jobs cloud our minds. For some people it is the most depressing time of year. As the darkness grows around us, there is a battle waged in many people's lives and in our communities - against depression and loss, against violence and forces of evil. All of the colored lights, Christmas cookies and holiday feasts cannot overcome this darkness that surrounds us. As we gather this evening, we embrace and claim the darkness that is present both in the world and in our own lives. As people who are familiar with the darkness, we also know that we gather to be illumined by the light of the Christ Child this Christmas season. May the Christ Child, born in a lowly stable, himself an outcast and refugee, bring light, comfort, peace and joy this holiday season.