By: Bernadette Moore-Gibson
Sunday, December 25, 2016
The Christmas reading from Isaiah speaks of Darkness and light. We are a people of the light, yet we spend so much of our lives wandering in the darkness. Perhaps as a gift, I was forced to slow down this Advent to recover from surgery. I had time to reminisce unplugged, about simpler times, built on relationships, and on Christmas light. Light is a powerful image throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is often used as a metaphor or a way of describing how God breaks into dark places. As fate would have it, the second Sunday of Advent we had a snow storm in Indiana and all the power and lights went out in our home for an entire evening. I sat all night as the candle light met with the darkness and pondered the holidays.
For reasons theological and spiritual it is timely for us to receive the gift of Christmas light. Some of us experience more of one than the other, some of us are better at seeing the light in the darkness, some of us are not so good at finding the light. But still, we search. We grope. We cry out for the light. Like the generations before us, we crave light!
Growing up my family journeyed through Advent by lighting an Advent wreath nightly at meals. As the Christ child’s Advent, or “coming,” drew nearer, we as siblings took turns lighting the candles on the wreath, with each candle dispelling the darkness a little more. I was reminded that every Christmas morning before opening presents my parents would have us kneel at the crèche next to our tree, light the Christmas candle and sing happy birthday to Jesus. It was important to my parents that we focus on “Emmanuel”, the God born to us. The God coming, daily, hourly, unto us, revealing Himself to our hearts.
As we grow older we can become so wrapped up in the trappings of the season that we miss the Christ child. We can be so familiar with the events and traditions of Christmas that we run on “auto pilot” and never have to think about the events in Bethlehem. Christmas is about the surprise, “the realization that the light can triumph over darkness!”. It has been a difficult political season for our country and for our city. Disruptive things happen when the kingdom of God comes into close proximity with the brokenness of our world. For me, the persistent inclusion of the synoptic apocalyptic Gospels in our Advent season, underscores how much of our faith is about Advent, “about anticipation” – anticipating the coming of a Savior – anticipating the arrival of God and God’s kingdom in our midst. Whether it is the anticipation of the incarnation and the birth of Jesus, or anticipating Jesus’ return, themes of anticipation, coming, arrival – they bracket the beginning and the “end” of our faith tradition.
Could you imagine anything more unlikely, that such a “light” as Jesus would burst forth 2,000 years ago in that obscure place, and be carried through all manner of time and human messiness so that the good news might be proclaimed here at Old St Pats today. But I’m starting to think God delights in illuminating unlikely places. So if you are finding yourself at at unlikely place this Christmas this message is for you too. If you are hurting this Christmas morning, the light of Christ shines for you. If you are alone this Christmas, Christ is with you. If you are ill, Christ cradles you in love. Losing hope? Christ is there. If you can’t feel it, if you can’t find the light, reach out to someone in our community. This is why we gather in this community. If you can’t find the light, if you can’t find your faith, someone will walk with you until you can feel the light on the path. We will find the light of Christ in places of healing “together”.
This Christmas, we remember God coming to earth to know us, we remember a scared young woman giving birth to a hope that had been promised for generations, a hope that lives with us still. Let that hope, that light, live in you. Nurture it with prayer, with song, with presence in a community that believes in God’s presence in this messy world and insists on acting in the name of God to spread love, justice and hope to all. And so this Christmas, we are invited to greet the light that shines forth from the cradle of this ancient story with Faith. This Christmas each of us has access to the light of God, guiding “us to thy perfect light.”
Bernadette Moore-Gibson is the Driector of Pastoral Care at Old St. Patrick’s Church. She can be reached at bernadetteg@ oldstpats.org.