Thursday, December 25, 2014

When Light is Born

It is said that before anything was, God existed in darkness, the Great I AM, a hovering singular presence. But the stories tell us that God wasn’t interested in aloneness, in solitary self-knowledge, so God created was-ness out of nothingness, shape out of shapelessness; through God’s breath, possibility took shape. And then, the storytellers tell us, where there had once been only darkness, light was born. Suns and moons and stars filled the skies, light begetting life.

But those first lights were not enough. The people of God grew and walked in the lights of the heavens and they hurt. They knew the law but could not follow it. They knew God’s desires but ran after their own. They wounded themselves, they destroyed each other, spiritual darkness shrouded over them even in the midday sun. They needed the true light.

And so a promise began to be whispered, first during the time of Moses, and out of the mouth of Balaam, the enemy sorcerer: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near – a star shall come out of Jacob...” Light would come and it would be the light of new life. King David sang the song of Gods’ promise: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The Light would come and nothing would stand against it. Yet again, the promise was spoken, this time by the prophet Isaiah during the time of the terrible exile: “Arise, shine, for your light has come....Darkness has covered the earth, but the Lord will arise upon you....kings shall come to the brightness of your dawn...the sun shall no longer be your light by day...but the LORD will be your everlasting light.” The Light would come and it would be the light of new life.

So they waited. For generations upon generations they waited on the light to be born, the light that was hope and life. But darkness lingered, compounded by the long silence of God. They became people of twilight, people stuck on the cusp of dawn. The people gazed over the horizon over their future, yearning for the breaking rays of light that would proclaim the presence of God in the midst of them once again.

Simeon and Anna had waited in darkness and longing like most of the scattered tribes of Israel. But the promise had come to them, a promise that their days would not end in darkness; the promise was whispered to them once again, that they would see the first flickers of the light of life. And then a star rose in the east, a new star traveled across the heavens, luring magi out of their homes and rousing false- Kings from their stupor of power; a star rose because the light had been born.

When Simeon took the newly born child Jesus into his arms, he turned to Mary and Joseph and said: “My eyes have seen your salvation...the light to the World.” The true light had finally been born. But this light was not the light that had been expected. It was not light that gleamed from the edge of a sword, it was not the light of fires as an army laid siege, it was not the light that shown from high temple walls. The light was pulsing, gentle, found in simple home lamps and amongst  shepherds on hills; and the light kept slipping over the borders of Israel into the lands of the gentiles, light that spilled and illuminated all the painful places, all the shameful places, all the secret places, light that forbade hypocrisy. This was love in the shape of light, powerful, pervasive, triumphant love.

Tonight, in the midst of the coming darkness of night, in the midst of a sin-darkened world, we surround ourselves with light. The advent candles that remind us of God’s long-ago promises that the light that came would bring hope, peace, joy and love. The Christ Candle that points to Jesus’ own words: “I am the Light of the World.” The candles in your hand that extend the light into our bodies with the responsibility to illuminate the darkness we find: “Let your light shine before all mankind”, Jesus told the disciples. The light was born to Mary, to the world, and the light dwells within us too. 

Rev Julie Jensen, a clergywoman friend, tells a story of when she went with a group down into a cave system. The guide warned them they were deep enough that no light  could reach them and then turned out all the lights. And it WAS dark, until a small boy began to stamp his feet, producing twinkling light from his shoes. He said that he was scared, but he knew he had his own light. Even in the darkest of places, where light should have no entrance, we can be light bringers, light bearers as well.

As you travel through this season, and into the days beyond, bear the light that is born this night. Carry the light of God’s love, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness; carry the light of hope, peace, love and reconciliation. Take the light of Christ’s presence into your own dark places and into the dark places of the people around you. Sing David’s song again: “The Lord is my light and my salvation!” As the angels said, “do not be afraid.” Because the promise of Christ is that whoever walks with him, will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

The story goes, that there was a moment BEFORE and then there was a beginning, a beginning when God and the WORD began to spin creation out before them. And what was created, what came from within that God, that WORD, was life, and the life was the light of all people. That light shone in the vast darkness of before, but the darkness did not overcome. And neither will it now. We are the Wise Men, we are Anna, we are Simeon, we have lived to see the light born. Carry the news, bear the light, bring the dawn of God’s new life. 

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