You may or may not be aware, so I will confess that I am a Religious Studies nerd.
Thus, I find it interesting that during specific times of the year that we (humanity) across nationalities and religious faiths have similar realizations about our world and the divine. This time of year (late December) is no different.
A few nights ago, it was the winter solstice and thus the longest night of the year.
I grew up in Arizona, so that never meant a whole lot to me as the difference between the length of summer and winter nights were not extreme due to being closer to the equator.
But in Indiana (or Ohio), you notice in the fall that the days are becoming shorter while the nights become longer, darker, and colder.
It was even worse in Washington State, where I came from most recently.
We notice it is darker.
We begin to long for that winter solstice.
We begin to long for the returned light, even its tiny glimpses breaking through the clouds.
We have arrived at that time. The days will begin to get longer. The night will begin to shorten.
We will notice the light breaking forth into our world.
But Christians are not the only people to notice because there are several holy days (holidays) amongst nations and faiths that celebrate the returning light, including Hanukkah.
On this holiest night of our faith, we recognize that same light returning to our world.
We started this evening and service in darkness.
The light that is Christ entered in and lit our standard service candles.
Then in our service, we lit the Advent wreath that as been counting down the weeks to this holy night. Rob seemed excited to light the WHOLE wreath tonight without tempting me to blow out candles. Although these candles are beautiful, helping us countdown to the light returning these are further symbolic of what the returning light is…
- We have the light of HOPE.
- We have the light of LOVE.
- We have the light of JOY (pink).
- We have the light of PEACE…
- and finally, we have the light that is CHRIST.
It is not a secret that our world is not perfect.
Our world is broken. Our world can feel dark.
And yet, we have gathered tonight to acknowledge, to welcome, and prepare for the light that is hope, love, joy, and peace known through Jesus the Christ, God Incarnate, who busts into our world scattering the darkness not as a great king or warrior, but as a baby born in a manger.
God came to provide light to the people who needed it the most:
Shepherds in the field were among the lowly.
A young, engaged but not married Palestine woman with child would not have been accepted among ‘polite’ society.
This is our story, God who breaks into the dark shining divine light upon the lowly and those deemed ‘unworthy’. We gather to celebrate this God born in human flesh and bone, who came to the lowly, to provide hope to the hopeless, joy for those in sorrow, peace for those who knew none, and a love not of this world…but a love that goes deeper, and wider, and shines brighter than any love we know.
SO, as our days become brighter may we remember that as the sun breaks through the clouds, God’s love and light continues to break into the darkest spots of our lives, our hearts, our souls, and our world. THAT is something to celebrate… Thanks be to God. Amen.