Year C; First Christmas; 12.30.2018
My bedroom window faces due south. At this time of year, once the sun finally raises its “sleepy little head” each morning, I can open the shade and watch it make that shallow arc across the Southern end of the earth – from east to west.
Wasn’t the sun fantastic yesterday?! So bright. So bold! What a change from Friday’s wet, icy, gray slushy day! Yesterday, the sun shone into my bedroom almost at eye level. I’m forever grateful for any sunshine in wintry Maine. I just want to drink it in. I want to go outside and do stuff in it – you know, for the vitamin D AND for the joy and vitality it brings.
I was not alone in my desire to be outdoors in the sunshine yesterday. Sophie and I went for a walk along the Androscoggin River and met over 30 dogs going for a walk with their owners – and that doesn’t even count the dogs romping around in the muddy dog park! There were joggers in sleeveless tops – thinking they might get a tan? Several dog walkers were wearing shorts! It was just SOOO GOOD TO BE OUT IN THE SUNSHINE….because we never know when we will have a chance to be in sunlight like that again during our loooong, dark winters.
At the 9:30 Family Eucharist today we will have a good conversation about light shining in darkness, and it’s meaning from John’s gospel – Jesus, the one true light, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” The one wonderful characteristic of this light is that “darkness did not overcome it.” And there is plenty of darkness out there in this world to overcome it. But it says right there in the first verses of John’s Gospel that from the very beginning Light was with God and this Light shines in the darkness. I am in favor of that Light in my life, I can tell you!
So, we will talk in the 9:30 Eucharist about how it feels to be in the dark. For me, when the power went out for those many, many days over a year ago, I did not like it. I felt a little scared and vulnerable. What I liked least is that I started to feel sorry for myself being in the dark all those days. I brought some candles, a reading lamp and some flashlights to talk about the different sources of light that we use when the power is out, when it is dark.
I love that the gospel lesson from John this morning, this First Sunday after Christmas, gives us the beautiful, theological description of “back to the beginning.” It’s much more difficult to understand than the narrative of Jesus’ physical birth set in a specific time and place in history.
But the Gospel reading every year that comes after the earthy birth narrative of Jesus, is the heavenly, theological lesson that tells the faithful that the Word – Jesus – existed WITH GOD at the time of GOD…In the beginning! And that the WORD had something to do with “light and life to all he brings.” I love the “bookends” of concrete birthing in a stable and heavenly “before time” of Christ existing with God. WORD was with God. WORD was God. Wow!
There is such hope in these words, “…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And there was PLENTY of darkness to overcome “…in the beginning.” If we think a temporary power outage is uncomfortable for us, just listen to the kind of darkness that existed before time:
From Genesis, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland…” Now, I love this translation that uses the word “wasteland!” I love the impressive phrase “formless wasteland.” What even IS a “formless wasteland?” If I were in New Jersey, I might think a “formless wasteland” was a Superfund site, a site needing to be cleaned up from contaminated hazardous waste. Sometimes, I think the squishy, icy mud of Maine seems like a “formless wasteland.”
“In the beginning, a ‘formless wasteland’ seems like an incomprehensible negative of nothing – no a negative, negative of nothing – a triple negative! “…and darkness covered the abyss…” Another wonderful translation. “Abyss” Not only “in the beginning” was there a wasteland, there was also a dark abyss! No wonder, if God was responsible for this triple negative wasteland abyss, that God wanted something more.
And so, I think God couldn’t stand it anymore and said, “Let there be light!” Within the very first four verses of Genesis – of all Scripture, and the very first act of God, “light was called forth.” And this light was declared “Good.”
See how important light is to God?! See how important is the Word, Christ with God in the beginning?! Christ, the light of the human race, shining in the darkness, and even now, in the dread, dark nights of the northern hemisphere’s winters, Christians trust and put our hope in the Light that is not extinguished.
And this Light is carried in the hearts and souls of each one of us. Even in the darkest times of history, even in one little individual of seeming no consequence, the light of faith, hope, and goodness even in seemingly hopeless times is revealed. Sometimes, it seems when only darkness prevails, that goodness is squelched under greed and power, “the formless wasteland” seems to be the victory. But glimpses of God’s light are seen – and are always revealed in God’s time.
I recently learned of a non-violent student group of resisters to the Nazis, students from the University of Munich. I have Paul Womer to thank for this information. They organized underground and anonymously began to write leaflets against the crimes of the Nazi regime, the ever-expanding war on two fronts and the murders of the Jews in death camps. This group was founded in June of 1942. They called themselves the White Rose and ended up writing six protest leaflets.
They funded the production and distribution of 15,000 leaflets. They painted protest graffiti. They existed for only eight months. The Gestapo arrested the core members in February of 1943 and promptly executed them for treason. One might think that their protest was in vain, so anonymous and secretive were they, so brief was their existence – so quickly extinguished.
However, their message lived on. Their leaflets were secretly handed off to other resisters in southern Germany and the resistance continued. These were young students, intellectuals and some were Christian. Student resisters Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were members of the White Rose. They were Christians. Somehow, their faith escaped the co-opting of the protestant and Catholic Churches with the Nazi regime.
In this brief time in history, they courageously and faithfully shone a light on one of the darkest regimes of history. Their “little light shone.”
Oh! We do love the light! Kindle it and let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.