Light in a dark year: A Christmas Eve reflection

This is the homily I will be delivering tonight. May they find meaning this Christmas season.

"Nara Chugen Mantoro" by Pieterjan Vandaele

What a year.

What a dark, dark year.

There have been more mass shootings than days this year.

The rich are getting richer, the middle class is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer.

I don’t have to tell you that there are over 23 million people (12 and older!!) suffering from alcohol or drug addiction in America.

3 million men and roughly 39.5 million women will suffer physical abuse this year.

Nearly 300k will be sexually abused.

The UN estimates that there are between 27-30 million slaves today in the world.

According to the World Bank, nearly 1.5 billion live in extreme poverty. They will earn in a month what many will spend on a casual dinner.

There is so much darkness in our world.

It can feel overwhelming, can’t it?

This deep sense over division, resentment, angry, hatred, fear and objectification is what prompted time magazine to put out this magazine:

The question they asked “What’s really changed in our country since the late 1960’s.”

Time Magazine: "America 2015"

Some days it feels like not much has changed from 1968 to now.

Some days, it doesn’t feel like much has changed from the time of Jesus until now.

Evil surrounds us. Death whispers in our ear, telling us we’ll never win. That darkness is inevitable. It’s the victor. It has the final word.

And, if we’re honest, logic and experience seem to prove this to be true.

And so we grieve and mourn.

We lose loved ones, and say good-bye to friends.

We suffer in silence the evils of the world.

Feel alone in our depression.

And wonder if life will ever get better.

Darkness for miles.

But we were not alone. Not forgotten.

Into this darkness was born a baby.

This wasn’t just any baby. He was light.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples and closest friends, described Jesus this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:1-5)

Into a world of darkness.

A world of violence.

A world of hate, we witness the birth of something beautiful and revolutionary.

Something that would change everything.

The Kingdom had come, and light was born. Which is good news because…

Darkness can feel overwhelming, cant it? 

Like a blanket, it can surround us. suffocate us. Smother us.

And we carry that heaviness with us throughout the year.

Still, here we are. Christmas eve. And in our being here, we’re declaring truth into the darkness.

The truth that no matter how deep and dark the darkness is, light has already come…and heres the thing about light.

We so often led to believe light to be at war with darkness. We believe them to be fighting against one another.

I love the way Shane Hipps talks about it:

“For the longest time, I saw light and darkness as opposites. Light casting out darkness. That’s its nature. But eventually I realized darkness is not actually opposite of light. It is in fact the absence of light. In the same way, there is no opposite of love. Just like light has no opposite, love has no opposite. There’s only love and the absence of love. In the presence of love, nothing backs it down, in the presence of light, no amount of darkness can quench the light. You can have darkness for millions of miles around, and one candle will illuminated all the space around it. No darkness can quench or conquer that light. That’s the power of love.”

Light and love. When you strip away the trappings of Christmas. When you break the nationalistic season down to it’s core… the message of Christmas.

Light illuminated a world of darkness.

Love overcame a world of hate.

And that my friends is good news.

This good news of Christmas is the declaration that the Light has come, and it doesn’t inhabit some well-lit, marble floored, morally sterile penthouse.

No, the light has entered into the real world- the world in which we live. The fearful, addicted, grief-filled-to-the-point-of-suicide, guilt-racked, isolated, hopeless world. This is why the coming of a small baby boy matters.

This is why we gather as faith communities and remember. This is why we spend weeks in anticipation. We anticipate because we are deathly tired of fear. We’re deeply tired of being objectified. We’re unspeakably tired of sickness and death.

And so we look to the light. The light which shines in the darkness and the light which darkness cannot overcome.

I don’t know where you are coming from today. I don’t know what your story looks like. I don’t know where you’ve been. I don’t know where you’re going.

I don’t know if your world is in the valley, or if you’re currently residing on the mountaintop.

Know this. Christmas is for you in all of the emotions, in all the pain, joy, sorrow, love, fear, guilt, innocence.

And know that as we celebrate the light. As you are invited to come and take communion, and to come and light your candle, know that this light is illuminating whats been there all along: the love of God, and his name for you….his son. his daughter.

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