6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Sometimes light is overrated.
Each year, our neighbor across the street hangs a very large, brightly lit star on a tree in his yard. He keeps it on all night, every night through Christmas. It shines directly into our bedroom. All night. Every night. Through Christmas.
Sometimes light is annoying. Really annoying.
Like the author of today’s Gospel lesson, we often associate light with good and darkness with bad. That’s how our pagan ancestors saw things. I know. I’m not supposed to be talking about pagan stuff on Christmas, but we ended up with Christmas on December 25th because our ancestors in faith Christianized a pagan holiday…so maybe it’s okay.
As it turns out, December 25th has been a popular day of celebration from earliest times by people of many religions and cultures. Why? One theory is that, coming four days after the winter solstice –which is the longest night of the year, the largest presence of darkness in the world–by the 25th, it was clear that the days were growing longer again, that each day was beginning to harbor more light and less darkness. For cultures that saw dark as bad and light as good, the darkest night of the year was forbidding. The promise of light–which they had by four days after the longest night–was the optimal time to celebrate.
So, it makes sense to quote John’s line on December 25th that “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
But still. Sometimes light is overrated. And annoying. Because sometimes light reveals things you’d rather stayed in the dark….like your bedroom at night during the busiest season of a pastor’s year….
…or the numbers on the scale after holiday binging…or the overdraft notices arriving in your inbox…or the discarded liquor bottles accumulating in the recycle bin…or the widening gap between rich and poor in our country and around the globe…or the increasing violence against Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities…or the acute irony of melting polar ice caps alongside sharp declines in potable water… or the realization that 62 million school age girls around the globe still are not able to receive education…
See what I mean? The light coming into the world might not be the most comfortable thing ever to happen. If these are the things the light reveals…maybe we’d do better if the light of the world hid himself under a bushel.
But…If the light of the world shines on all the broken places, mightn’t it also shine on all the sources of healing for those broken places? Mightn’t it shine on places where people treat each other with kindness and generosity and good will? Mightn’t it shine on places where justice is sought, where the earth is well-tended, where systems of poverty are transformed? Mightn’t it shine on people who wake up to their privilege and use it to empower others, and on the marginalized who wake up to their worth and begin living it, and on the artists and writers who help us see our lives as they are and wake up to our own creative power to make the world a better place?
And might not the light of the world shine on us? Might the light of the world be waking us up to our own creative power to transform the world?
It’s so easy for Christmas to stay sweet. Christmas carols, Santa Claus, the baby Jesus, presents, hot cocoa….but the true story of Christmas, the true promise of Christmas comes from believing, truly believing in the power of God through the Christ– and through us— to transform a broken world into a place of peace and wholeness.
These words of L. R. Knost express it well:
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
It’s Christmas! 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, has come into the world. Thanks be to God!
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2016