(Editor’s note: This is Peggy’s sermon from December 27th)
Listen…did you hear it in the Gospel I just read? Maybe not. Here it is again from verse five…”The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never mastered it” (The Revised English Bible). I am not sure that we, who live in this day and age, really can fully appreciate this verse. When we want something lit, we just walk over to a switch, flip it and there…let there be light. It is almost too easy to fully appreciate what a gift it is.
Let’s imagine that for a moment, we are taken back in a time machine, you know….the one that Sheldon and his friends used on the show the Big Bang Theory. We get in and go back…..back to the beginning of human kind. There was no light.
The earth was dark, very dark. According to most scientists, human beings probably discovered fire by accident. It was probably thought to be a gift from God when lightning struck a bush and set the bush on fire, sending out light and much needed heat. We always feel colder when darkness sets in, don’t we? The campfire was the first use of artificial light. Many of us still enjoy sitting around a campfire or, this time of year, watching a fire in a fireplace. It warms us both on the outside and on our inside too. Watching a fire can me calming…mesmerizing, relaxing. Campfires freed people from darkness and the fear of prowling animals. They were better able to see their surroundings.
Then there came the torch. It was most likely the first portable lamp that helped light our way from one place to another. The ancient Greeks believed that the fire bringer was Prometheous. People learned that if one tied a bundle of straw/sticks together, it would make a fire that could burn longer and could be portable. From this came oil lamps. The oil made from animal fat could burn even longer and could light dark caves. Humans continued to search out new ways to improve the ability to further advance the light, even deeper into the darkness. Today, we are able to light our environment as much as we desire twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Like our ancestors of so long ago, we seek light. We celebrate it. This past week , December 21, marked the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It is also the darkest day of the year. Some I know celebrate this night
roasting hotdogs over an open fire and serving hors d’oeuvres and wassail. For them, it is a celebration of the fact that the light will be returning, so the days will be longer. The summer solstice is also celebrated similarly.
All of advent, we celebrated a different kind of light that would be coming into the world. At the service of Lessons and Carols, last Sunday evening, the altar was decked with beautiful candle light. And now….the light has come into the world. Like the sun that shines and brings light to our days, it, too, is natural and sent from God. It is the light that Jesus brings. Jesus came to be the light of the world.
This time of year can be difficult for many because it is dark and this darkness can feel suffocating and emphasize the dark places in our lives. It can bring fear of the wild beasts of our individual lives and our communities.
Sometimes, we attempt to shine artificial light on the dark places. Things like material goods for example. I have heard people say, “I thought if I got that,______( you fill in the blank) I would feel better, but it didn’t help”. I know a mom who buys her children material things to make up for the time she didn’t spend with them because they were in DHHS custody as she recovered from a drug addiction. This is a kind of artificial light. It doesn’t, and never will, fill the void that love can. Love is the real light and this is the gift that has come through the tiny child lying in a manger. It is an awesome, peaceful gift that is real. It is a powerful gift that can melt away the coldness of one’s heart with its heat. It can change lives and it will last forever. Once one knows this love, this light, one is truly aware that this light can and does shine brightly. The darkness cannot overcome it.
The nightly news and newspapers are full of bad news. We can see and hear about people hurting one another and our environment every day and it can get to us and leave us feeling sad, depressed and angry. Those are dark feelings. In fact, this kind of news is what sells newspapers. The media sensationalizes the bad news.
But, Thursday Evening, we symbolically did something that we are called to do for real…every day. Do you know what it was? We lit candles. We began from the center aisle and gently passed the light from one person to another until everyone had the light. This simple symbolic event when we sing Silent Night gets me every year. It is an awesome, joy and peace filled time when I feel full to the brim with love, hope and joy. And I know this is what we are called to do, as followers of Christ, of this little tiny child sent from God. We are called to spread light, seek out the light everywhere.
There is a lot of good news out there, beyond these walls, places where the light shines brightly and people treat each other and our world with love and care. And….it can begin right now….right here…in this place…at this time.
When I was a little girl and we would go visit my grandparents in Massachusetts we would play a game called, “I spy”. I invite us to play it this week. You might be surprised what you find. Every morning, I invite you to look for the places in yourself, in your home, the places where you work, your community, and yes, on a larger scale, the places in the world where the light of Christ is shining through and thank God for that light.
Play it by yourself or with your family….”I spy with my little eye”…A mom gently holding her tiny baby with the look of tenderness. This little game may seem a bit silly, and maybe it is; but it just might help us find the light in the dark places. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never mastered it”.
Thanks Be To God