Every morning, I sit in the big comfy chair in the corner of the living room and light a small votive candle. I put the candle in the center of a porcelain bowl that has a wide reach and gently sloping sides, where the light of the small flame is illuminated and magnified by the simple geometry of the reflective surfaces.
I sit (as the coffee brews) and mediate on this light, the shadows around it, and the darkness in the corners of the room. It’s easy to dwell in the darkness and the shadows- thinking about the things that worry me, overwhelm me, cause me to dread… and I work to focus, instead, on the steady flame of the candle, offering hope, peace, and promise.
It seems to me, as I drive around our neighborhoods this Advent, that there are more Christmas lights than ever in front yards, on front porches, and decorating roofs, trees, and hedges. I wonder if these displays are a defiant shout-out against the gloom and despair that is growing in our country: the increasing political divide that threatens progress, the unveiling of rampant sexual misconduct and abuse in all corners of our culture, and the precarious state of the wellbeing of the poor, elderly and immigrants in our country, to name a few dark corners of our common life. The lights seem to call out that there is hope, there is joy, there is salvation and we will have it- we will not allow the hope in our hearts be extinguished; in fact, we will shine that light- the light of hope and peace and promise- as brightly as we can, as brightly as our 50 foot extension cords and super-max LED lights will allow because, we are like the wise bridesmaids, who stand at the door with trimmed lamps and plenty of oil, and wait for the Captain of our Salvation to arrive, bringing the light of eternal glory.
This week’s gospel features more about John, whom, we hear, is “not the light, but…came to testify to the light.” (John 1:8)
I wonder how we are called to testify to the light of Christ in our surroundings. Stringing yards and yards of tiny red and green and blue and purple lights is one way. Bringing light, bearing the light of Christ to another, is another way. An individual act of kindness may seem to be of lower wattage, and maybe less glitzy, but it is powerful. Look at the difference that many individual votes made in Alabama this week, joining together to shine a bright light of justice in the dark corner of oppression and abuse. The recent #metoo movement is a bringing to light ages of indiscretion and claiming that there can be another way to live in community that is honorable and worthy.
How do you bring light in this season? Is it by making an extra gift to your favorite charity? Performing an act of kindness for a neighbor? Offering gratitude to someone who is overlooked and unthanked? Or, perhaps, being bold enough to speak up and speak out about the #metoo moments in your own life, shining light on a painful past in hope of a just and more peaceful future? This week I read about the death of a 15 year old boy in Massachusetts who took his own life in response to bullying that he received from his peers. How can we, as bearers of Christ’s light, offer hope to those who are in such despair, such darkness, that they cannot see hope? Bring the light. Bear it into the world for healing and wholeness.
Join John as a herald of the Good News that the darkness will not overcome us, and that the brilliance of God’s glory, hope and peace is available to us all.
It is probably no mistake that twice in the past two weeks, the folk song “this little light of mine” has been featured in the liturgy of the churches where I’ve worshipped. We need the light. Bring it. Bear it.
Christ is the world’s true light, its captain of Salvation
The daystar clear and bright,
Of every race and nation;
New life, new hope awakes,
For all who own His sway:
Freedom her bondage breaks,
And night is turned to day.
George Wallace Briggs 1931. Tune: St. Joan by: Percy E B Coller 1941.
And, here’s an uplifting version of This Little Light of Mine (attrib: Harry Dixon Loews, 1920) performed by the Soweto Gospel Choir