Message: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-2:12; John 1:1-14
Merry Christmas good friends! Today, we sing for joy! Christmas hymns are in full swing. This is the time! The exact imprint of God’s very being is born among us once again. Christ, the reflection of God’s glory, is born, bringing to us the gift of a new heart to light up our lives. As the writer of John’s gospel writes so eloquently, “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Christ is the Word who became flesh and lives among us. We have seen his great glory and we gather to celebrate the Christ, full of grace and truth.
Christ, the light that shines in the darkness. As a child, waiting on Christmas Eve was the longest night. After a day and night of feasting and stories and prayers, my sisters and I were sent off to bed. Climbing the stairs to our bedrooms, we’d sneak one last peek at the Christmas tree all ablaze in the darkened living room, awaiting the gift of Christmas morning. Our hearts raced, as we climbed into bed praying that somehow we’d close our eyes and fall asleep as the night played a wonder and mystery.
In our house, our parents had certain rules about Christmas morning. We were not allowed out of bed until it was daylight. Not a single pitter patter or shuffle could be heard. Try as we might, sleep would not come in the dark of night. Instead, we simply found ourselves restlessly waiting for the light. Finally, the light would break through and Christmas was here.
Christmas is here again, my friends. Christ the Lord, in us, with us, through us, the true light to enlighten us all. With such a gift, we are changed forever. And yet, when we exit from these holy spaces today, do we actually carry with us the light of Christ? Do we embrace a changed life by the light of Christ?
Because, these are very similar words to the words we said last year, and the year before, and for two thousand years. Still, our world too often sits in the darkness. But, today, when we leave this place, knowing full well our world is full of hurt. Instead, may we ask, especially in times of darkness, how is God shining brightly as the light of grace and truth? May we deliberately look for the light of Christ in every person we meet. May we BE the light of Christ for every person we meet.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is traveling the country these days, endearing himself to audiences with his vulnerability as he tells of a darkness overcome by light; particularly the untimely death of Beau Biden his 46 year old son. Vice President Biden captures this critical time in his new book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. He reflects upon a trip he makes to New York City on behalf of the President to comfort the family and friends of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, ambushed by a lone gunman the Saturday before Christmas, in protest against the acquittal of a police officer in the shooting of Eric Garner. Biden took some time to visit with Sanny Liu, the widow of Wenjian Liu, and their family who had come from China for the funeral. Sanny and Wenjian, only just married three months earlier, were looking forward to carrying on the family honor, having children and raising them in a country where the light of hope prevails.
Throughout the visit, Wenjian’s father never left Biden’s side. Finally, as it was time to depart Wenjian’s father embraced the vice president. English not being his first language and the Vice President having not mastered Cantonese found no need for words. Biden, just months away from losing his own son sensed the sorrow Wenjian’s father felt as he reflected by on the tragic loss of his wife and daughter one Christmas more than four decades earlier. Somehow, in the embrace they shined as a light of hope for one another in their darkness. It would be just five months later Wenjian’s father would return the embrace as he stood in line with hundreds of mourners lined up to pay their respects to Joe Biden grieving over the death of Beau.
“The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). As the light pierces the darkness, how will we be purposeful about searching for the light, holding onto the light and revealing the light?
The night of Officer Wenjian’s murder, Sanny Liu bravely asked the hospital medical team to extract sperm from her newlywed husband that somehow, some way, Sanny and Wenjian will still carry on the family name. Time went along. One night, Wenjian came to Sanny in a dream announcing she would have a baby girl. This past July, two years following the murder of the police officers, Sanny Liu, through in-vitro fertilization gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Angelina. All are rejoicing.
God will not rest in horror and grief. Rather, God lightens our path and reveals God’s self to us in possibilities we can only imagine. May we look for the light in the deepest shadows, in the hollows of hunger, and in the corners of confusion. God comes to us as a newborn child, without fanfare; without salute; to enlighten us all that we will know God’s saving love. He comes and gives all power to become children of God, adorning the light, bearing witness to the light and testifying to the light. Merry Christmas most joyous ones.