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Advent Four “The Light that has Come and Is Coming”

Sunday December 20, 2020

The Rev. Nancy Talbot at Mount Seymour United Church

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7 and John 1: 1-13

This time of year when I am baking Christmas cookies or cooking dinner or cleaning up after dinner, I always seem to have a Christmas movie blaring on the TV in the background.  Sometimes it’s an old classic like White Christmas and The Sound of Music, sometimes it’s new classics like The Holiday or Love Actually and sometimes it’s one of those smarmy Hallmark movies that seem to be on 24/7 this time of year. 

If there’s one thing these and other Christmas shows all seem to agree on, it’s that love is the thing we are most wanting to find in this season. Whether it’s Rosemary Clooney falling in love with Bing Crosby or Cameron Diaz falling in love with Jude Law or the woman who stars in all those Hallmark movies falling in love with whichever leading man is in front of her; whether it’s the Grinch whose heart grows 3 sizes or Ebenezer Scrooge who becomes a kinder and more generous man after his visits with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, love is at the heart of it all.

The writer of John’s Gospel, from whom our scripture reading comes today, understands this universal longing and uses another universal metaphor to describe it, the metaphor of light that shines in the darkness.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed more Christmas lights illuminating more darkened streets than ever before this year.  By mid- November lights were flying off our Thrift Shop shelves and it wasn’t long before those lights began to appear on balconies, eaves and fences all over the North Shore.

 Just after remembrance day I was walking in my neighbourhood down Hamber Street on my way from the office to my house and I noticed that more than half the houses on the street were already lit up.  A week later I came around the corner and was met by an abominable snowman and a giant reindeer with a poop emoji sitting close to his behind. I burst into laughter. 

I am convinced that back in October someone dropped a flyer on everyone’s doorstep saying “let’s see if we can get every single house on our street to put up lights up this year.”  And the thing I love about that is I am sure that on that street there are Christians and atheists, those who are spiritual but not religious, and possibly Jews, Muslims and Hindus living behind those well lit houses all wanting to send a message of light and love to our neighbourhood in these dark days.

Like love, light is a universal symbol.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Hanukkah, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate Diwali, Pagans celebrate Winter Solstice, all of which are celebrations of light.  We even put candles on our birthday cakes to celebrate each year of life we have been given to live.

Throughout the season of Advent here at the church we have been gathering around the beginning stories of Jesus from each of the four Gospels.  We started with Mark who doesn’t seem to care about Jesus infancy and cuts right to the chase with John the Baptist announcing the arrival of an adult Jesus who will change the world.  Matthew begins his story with a very long recitation of Jesus lineage going all the way back to Abraham and Luke begins with angels and miraculous conceptions. 

Only John takes us all the way back to the beginning, the very beginning to suggest that the wisdom and light that came into being through Jesus was wisdom and light that has been in existence since the very beginning of time, what some people refer to as the Cosmic Christ.  For John, Jesus is the pattern on which all things have been created and the agent through which they are created which means that for John what we celebrate at Christmas is very clearly universal and eternal love and universal and eternal light.

But I love what Father Richard Rohr says about this universal love and light, he says that it’s hard for human beings to fall in love or have an intimate relationship with something as vast and nebulous as eternal light and love. And so in the birth of Jesus, the concept of what we call the incarnation, the Divine made known to us in human form, in substance that looks like us, acts likes us, and feels like us, God with skin on, as it were, we are given a presence with which we can relate, with which we can have an intimate relationship. 

I think that’s why when we see the baby lying in a manger, with his mother and father at his side and humble shepherds and lofty magi kneeling to worship and adore him, our hearts respond, because there is something about that scene that the eternal within us connects with and recognizes.

Richard Rohr says that Jesus is the icon of what it means to be fully human and fully Divine and because of that, when we see him, we see ourselves.  He is a mirror of who and what we are capable of being.  The Light that came into being in Jesus is the same light that is in each one of us. He is the light by which those of us who follow his way come to recognize and know the light that dwells within us. 

What is this light?  This light is love.  For all our seeking and all our searching for love in this season, the greatest gift of the manger, is the revelation that this love is best found when we are able to locate it right here inside each and every one of us.

The implication of that discovery is that we don’t actually have to hang up lights on our houses to send out messages of hope, peace joy and love this year, although isn’t it wonderful that so many of us have done that? But all we really have to do is let our own internal light shine, to open up our hearts so wide that love flows freely in our streets, that we and our world are transformed into who and what we really are.

The North Shore News recently published a story about a couple who have set out to unite the world in song on Christmas Eve.  They are asking us to go outside at 6pm to ring bells and then to sing five Christmas Carols, songs about the birth of Jesus, songs about universal light and love.

It’s a simple idea and will be easy for many of us to do and it makes me wonder what other simple yet profound ways we can find to let our light shine in the darkness this season?

Yesterday when I was walking home from my office, I stopped for a chat with one of the residents on Hamber street.  I asked him if my theory that someone had orchestrated their light display through a mass communique was correct.  “No” he said “some people down the other end of the street started putting their lights out early this year, I’m assuming because of Covid.  It just spread from there.”  “Like a good contagion,” I said.  “Yes” he replied “like a good contagion.”