Light of the World
By Melissa Kramer
Scriptures: Psalm 147:12-20 and John 1:1-18
Today is the 10th day of Christmas. Yes, you can and should continue to celebrate Christmas! The 12 days of Christmas, you know, the traditional song about the 12 days of Christmas with turtle doves and maids-a-milking. They begin on Christmas and continue until Epiphany. The 12 days of Christmas are not made up to go with the song… we really do celebrate Christmastime all the way from Christmas Eve through January 6 which is Epiphany. So yes, we are celebrating!
I doubt you received any swans, geese, leaping lords, or drummers for Christmas… although if you do have drums, or pots and pans, I think it would be appropriate to pull them out. The Sunday before epiphany is a sort of drum roll into the big and exciting news that God has to share with us!
You may have noticed a theme in our Scripture readings this morning of things “coming to light,” of things being revealed or made known. The portion of Psalm 147 that we read may not seem like the obvious text to read as we look forward to epiphany. We read things like, God making metal bars stronger, spreading snow and frost, throwing down hail. While the snow, frost and hail seems appropriate for winter, they are not images that invoke joyful feelings. Many of us turn up the heat and cover up with a warm blanket at the mention of snow and frost! But listen closely to the last few verses: “No one can stand his icy blast. He gives his command, and the ice melts. He stirs up his winds, and the waters flow. He has made his word known to the people of Jacob. He has made his laws and rules known to Israel. He hasn’t done that for any other nation. They don’t know his laws. Praise the Lord.”
Our God is all-powerful. No one and no thing can compare. While he can send snow and hail, he also melts the ice. As the psalmist tells us, He has made known his word. He has made known his laws. Before the incarnation, before the Christ child, God made known his ways. Our all powerful God who is awe-inspiring, revealed himself.
It is this revelation that we continue to celebrate. The God we know through the Old Testament, the character of God revealed through the prophets and his word spoken through the prophets is, in some sense, limited knowledge of God. We still celebrate that God revealed himself to us. We read about God revealing himself to Abraham, to Moses, and to Elijah. We study the books of the Old Testament because it is the story of God, the written Word of God for us. This is how we know God - through his word.
And yet, there was more of God to be made known.
John 1 is a beautifully written text that moves us out of darkness and into the light. The Word of God, the Son of God, who was with God at the beginning; the God who created all things, and who holds the world into existence, became flesh. This is different from before. This is not God speaking from a burning bush or moving through the forces of nature. This is bigger, and yet smaller. More powerful than ever before, but yet most humble. As great, but as simple as the distinction between light and darkness.
Darkness, like the cold, long, icy winter, is the world without Christ. This is the world without knowledge of God, knowledge of our Creator, the one who loves us. Many of us as children, or maybe still as adults, would admit to having a fear of the dark. Growing up, my parent’s house had an unfinished basement with cold floors and exposed support poles. The only light came from those light bulbs with the pull chains. That meant that if you were in the basement, you had to find your way in the dark to the chain to pull it and turn on the light. That also meant that when you were done in the basement, you had to turn off the light at the source and then run, in the dark, hoping you wouldn’t crash into a pole, to the staircase so that you could make it back upstairs into the light. No one wanted to be the last one still in the basement to have to navigate through the dark by themselves. Why? Because the dark is scary.
Darkness is not necessarily scary all on its own. Rather, it is the unknown, the fact that we cannot see that makes us feel afraid. As soon as there is at least one flash of light, we feel more at ease.
Light shining in the darkness is actually very beautiful. Growing up, especially in high school, I had a lot of bonfires with my family and with friends from school. All summer long, it was as if every other night someone else was hosting a bonfire. There is something warm and comforting about sitting outside in the dark, with a chill wind blowing, as long as there is a warm fire nearby and bright stars in the sky. In addition to my memories of bonfire nights, I remember one 4th of July. I was with one of my friends from high school and we had just gotten back from a mission trip with our youth group. I was at her house to watch the fireworks over the lake, and I remember laying down in the grass, just looking up at the night sky. There were so many stars. And when it’s dark enough, the sky is clear of clouds and you’re far enough out of the city, it’s breathtaking. Even more so is the way the moon transforms a dark night into something magical. Have you ever stepped outside at night because the sky was perfectly clear and the moon was shining? I’ve always found those moments to be calming and peaceful, yet so mysterious.
I also think about the fun tradition of driving around to look at Christmas lights. There is a reason that people put up big light displays and create fun drive-thru light shows. Light shining in the darkness makes us pause. We see the light shining and we stop or slow down to notice it. It might even “take our breath away” from its magnificence!
My favorite memory and yearly tradition of lights shining in the dark has to be a Christmas Eve candlelight service. But, I would like to share a memory from college of a similar experience. While I was at school at Indiana Wesleyan University, I lived for three years in Beckett Hall which used to be called “North Hall.” Its brother dorm was simply called, “South Hall.” These brother and sister dorms faced each other with a simple but short walkway between the two. Each year, students would leave campus over thanksgiving break, and when we returned, the entire campus was suddenly decked for the holidays! Christmas trees filled every building on campus. And in between North and South Halls, there would be a Christmas tree. One night shortly after returning to campus after Thanksgiving, we would gather outside with hot chocolate to stand around the tree. We would sing carols and stand hand-in-hand with friends. As we sang “Silent Night,” all of the exterior lights to the dorms would temporarily shut off, and the only light outside would be the lights on the Christmas tree.
Light is beautiful and it opens our eyes up to a whole new way of seeing the world. During this season of Christmas, and as we approach Epiphany, we remember and celebrate that we no longer live in darkness. Christ is the Light of the World. He brings light and life. Through Christ, God has been revealed; a revelation greater than anything spoken by the prophets. We no longer live in darkness because we can know God. Not only do we know God, but through Christ, through the true light, our eyes are opened. We see things we could not see before. We have faith that we could not have before. And now, we can be in relationship with God, we can be adopted children of God.
While there is still darkness, uncertainty and fear in our world, we must remember that darkness does not reign. We are entering into what is likely going to be a long, dark, and cold winter. We need the light and life of Christ to sustain us throughout these winter months. I included these questions in Wednesday’s 20 @ Twilight video, but I think they are important questions for us to reflect on. These questions can help us focus on the Light, when we feel consumed by darkness.
What is your favorite spiritual practice?
What do you do when there is darkness, fear, and uncertainty in your life?
What do you do to connect yourself to the light of Christ?
Who in your life can help remind you of the light?
How can you shine the light of Christ to others?
All of us here at Trinity want to help you stay connected to God so that the light of Christ continues to shine brightly in your life. In addition to our weekly sermons posted on the church website, we have a Sunday Morning Prayer Gathering that meets on Zoom each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The link and information to join can be found on the homepage of the church website, www.trinitylafayette.org. We also post a weekly 20 @ Twilight video each Wednesday night at 8:40 p.m. These videos are intended to help us end the evening in prayer and reflection on God’s Word. Also, beginning on Wednesday, January 13, Pastor Tracey will be offering a discussion group over Zoom. You can contact Pastor Tracey or the church office if you are interested in participating.
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