The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. These ancient words have brought hope to countless people through the ages. These words speak to me tonight/today as I wonder where or how the light will shine, for once again, it seems, we live in an age of great darkness.
Where, how, will it shine for the refugees fleeing Syria and through the haunting images like that of a little girl covered in the dust of bombed and fallen buildings as she tries to comfort her younger brother? Where, how, will it shine through families like the husband, carrying his small child and supporting the arm of his wife who is attached to an IV pole? Where, how, will the love of God come into this darkness, this despair, this fear?
In the bombed out buildings in Germany, the destruction of a Christmas market, will Jesus come again into this trail of death? How is God’s love shining forth for the families of those who died?
Around this country, Canada and France, churches are finding cards, from unsubstantiated sources, threatening a disaster will befall them between now and New Year’s Day. Churches everywhere are tightening up security. Will Jesus come into this fear? Will God’s love bring peace?
In the angry and hurt people of this country who have a legitimate fear of racial profiling and of loss of liberty just for being who one is: gay, lesbian, or transgender, black, female, or an immigrant?
Planes are hijacked. People are dying. The world is in chaos. The rise of fear is real and palpable. We live in great darkness and wonder if there is any light at all.
Will Jesus come into our lives this year? Will God’s love shine forth and bring peace to a world overwhelmed by the atrocities of human beings, one to another?
And yet….if there is one thing that has always been true, it is that into every great darkness, even now in these times which are reminiscent of the darkest times in human history, something is already gestating, preparing to be born. Because all life begins in darkness. Deep in the womb of creation, new life is being formed. Darkness is the beginning of life and light. Darkness and light are both the same, the fertile seed where life, hope, and love reside.
Fear tries to stop life and put out the light and smother the darkness. Fear thrives on chaos, it seeks to stir up both light and dark and tries to choke out creative generativity. Fear shuts down one’s vision, one’s hope, one’s ability to be playful, it diminishes one’s imagination. To live in fear is to live small, to live life rigid, stuck, frozen, incapable of taking risks.
But, new life is always a risk, just ask any woman who has had a miscarriage and then carried a pregnancy to term. Life feels risky. Just ask the first person in one’s family who goes to college and tries to break out of the pattern of systemic poverty. Just ask the man who lost his job, fears he’s aging out of opportunities, but finds employment when he least expects it. Just ask the person of color who takes a risk every time he or she leaves their house. Just ask the person who has come out and told the truth about their sexuality. Ask anyone who is trying to live an authentic life. Taking risks, not giving in to fear, having the capacity to walk in and through darkness is what creates the great light. In every age, in every time, there are people who shine, who carry within the vision, the love of God, who enlighten the way for others.
Tonight/today for Christians the one who brings the light is Emmanuel, Jesus. And we celebrate the coming forth of this light just as the earth turns from the longest night toward the sun, toward light and warmth, and hope. This hope begins small, like a helpless babe. But hope grows and ignites within others a deeper hope and gradually one small glimmer becomes the light for a nation.
The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light, a light for all the nations. Tonight/today may that great light shine in and through us. Even if it is only the hope for hope, a small glimmer within, may it be birthed in and through us as God is revealed in human flesh. For if there is a God, we will know God’s presence in the love that shines forth in one another.
Will Christ come into the world this year?
As a new born babe?
As a stranger? An immigrant? A refugee?
Will it be you?
Will it be me?
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom us from all that holds us captive, exiled in fear
O come thou Wisdom from on high and teach us in her ways to go
O come thou desire of all nations and bind in one the hearts of human kind
Rejoice, rejoice, this Christmas tide, rise up rejoice
for the darkest day will give birth to light
A light to shine, extinguishing fear
Hope will prevail and God’s love
will transform all human flesh.
A reflection on the readings for Christmas from the RCL.