This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." - John 3:16-21
God-light. Oh, how we need it!
Here we are, one week before Christmas, that day set aside centuries ago to remember the story, to tell the tale of God come to humankind. I am writing this reflection on December 13th, Santa Lucia day. Lucia was an Italian girl who became a Christian, and in thanks to God for saving her mother from illness, went about the city by candlelight to help the poor. She was martyred for her faith in the year 304, but the story of her candlelight ministry spread to Sweden. And the 13th day of December -- the darkest one of the entire year -- became Lucia's festival day. The eldest girl in every house, dressed in white with a red sash and a wreath of candles on her head, brings coffee and pastry to her parents -- and the Italian song, "Santa Lucia" is sung. I am part of a denomination that has Swedish roots and almost 35 (!!) years ago, I wrote a 10-minute meditation for the first of what became a 20-year series of annual Lucia breakfasts, served to over 600 people every December, most of them non-church-goers. I was asked to shorten it to 3 minutes and it was read every year for a decade as we remembered this young, early Christian who fed the poor from her own wealth:
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘light?’ The figure of Lucia is one kind of symbol for light - light in the midst of winter darkness, bringing hope for the hungry with her wreath of candles.
But what is light to you? What images come to your mind? Lamplight - to see things better? Firelight - to warm yourself? Lantern light - to show you the way? Perhaps that great ball in the sky that lights up our days - the sun - is the picture that first pops into your mind when you hear the word ‘light.’
But how many of you would think of light in it is original form, far more powerful than any other light we could name this morning? Light that brings more comfort than firelight, reveals more dirt and grime than any fluorescent or incandescent bulb, provides a warmer welcome than any home on this earth, directs our path more clearly than any lantern, pierces the darkness more effectively than a thousand suns. Where can we find such light?
Most appropriately for this season of the year, we can find it in one very special place -- that manger stall in Bethlehem, enclosed most wonderfully in the very human flesh of a wee baby. That little life, laid in the straw of a small stable, brought with it the light of God’s love to the world.
When he was grown to young manhood, that same baby had this to say about himself: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus the baby had grown into a man with a mission, a man who knew who he was and steadfastly worked to communicate that knowledge -- that light -- to the rest of his world. His mission took him along a difficult road. The Light became tired and hungry and angry, much like you and I, but it was never quenched. The Light traveled and taught, healed and preached, told stories and made friends and wept over the darkness he found all around him.
He committed himself to shine, no matter what the circumstances of his life might be, and the radiance of that shining is still being seen today, glowing out of the pages of the New Testament as we read of his adventures and experiences. It shines today in the lives of those who have made the Lord of Light their own.
So, in addition to finding that wonderful, original light in the humble manger stall, we can find it all around us, today -- right where we are -- in this place, in this time.
The story of Christmas is more, much more, than the story of Lucia. It is more than myth and legend, it is more than beautiful crèche scenes and fragrant trees and glittering lights. It is real, it is simple and it is available to us where we are. God’s great gift of light is here to brighten this - and every - Christmas season.
“Arise! Shine! For your light has come!"
“Arise! Shine! For your light has come!"