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The Light of the World

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2 NRSV).

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:3b-5 NRSV).

Tonight, in churches across the globe, people will gather and light the Christ candle to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. Many churches will close out the service with the parishioners holding candles and singing “Silent Night.” As the flame is passed from candle to candle, the dimness of the church softly comes aglow with light. In these holy moments, when we are bathed in soft light, we remember, we believe, that the darkness will not – cannot – overcome the light of Jesus.

But then we walk from within the soft glow of the church into the cold darkness outside. How can we see Jesus’s light when the world feels so weighted down with darkness? Today’s passage from Isaiah tells us that, for those of us who have “lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” Honestly, it’s hard to see Jesus’ light in the world right now. I feel like I am walking blindly in the dark, bumping into the deeper darkness of racism, war, genocide, misogyny, nationalism, the reckless destruction of creation, hate, and greed. Yet Jesus promises that those who walk in darkness will see a great light. We saw that light in Jesus’ birth, we saw it in Jesus’ resurrection, and while the world seems blanketed with darkness now, we clutch tightly to the hope that there will be a day when light will overcome the darkness.

In the meantime, as we hold those flames aloft, we should also remember that we walk, daily, with candles of light here in the shadows of earth. God gave us all different lights. Some carry a light to fight racial injustice, others, to rescue orphans, feed the hungry, welcome the marginalized, mend the gaping wounds of sexual assault. We can be a light no matter where we are, no matter what we do. Our jobs do not necessarily represent our calling. A wise, kind friend of ours owns a dirt business, and although he doesn’t feel “called” to run that dirt business, he feels called to be kind and loving and carry a Christ-like light. I have no doubt that his light shines bright. I have no doubt that your light can shine bright, too.

On this, the last day of waiting before Christmas, we wait with hopeful expectation, with anticipation, and with an unbending belief that Jesus, the light of the world, is coming. He is bringing redemption, hope, joy, and peace. Until then, hold your candle high and light up the darkness.

Dear God, thank you that the light of Jesus shines even in this dark world. Thank you for this day when the time of Advent, of waiting, ends and the celebration of your birth is ushered in. Thank you for bathing us in the soft glow of the beauty of this season. Please help us to carry your light into a dark world. Amen.


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