Saturday, December 24, 2016

Year A Christmas Eve 2016 Lighter In My Pocket

Year A Christmas Eve 2016
“The Lighter In My Pocket”
St. David’s Church, Aylett, VA

Here is the audio file of today's sermon: AUDIO FILE

The Lord be with you! [And also with you.] Let us pray.

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Merry Christmas! Tonight we gather to remember, that there is hope in this world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot comprehend it.” And that is what we celebrate this night. That light which cannot be overcome, cannot be comprehended, cannot even be grasped. The Greek word used here in John 1:5 is just that, an ambiguous word, κατελαβεν, KATELABEN means “grasp” & “against,” take hold of, either physically or intellectually. I love that this verse speaking of the relationship of light and dark has this ambiguous meaning. Darkness is not the equal of light, it is the antithesis of light.

Hate is not the opposite of love. Love is an intense feeling of affection, while Hate is the intense feeling of dislike. But Apathy, apathy is the opposite of love. Apathy cannot understand caring, cannot conceive of caring. Apathy cannot even compete with Love. Love is all consuming, and when we see someone in Love, we know it, we celebrate it, we honor it. When we see someone proposing, we all stop and hold our breath. When they say yes, we cheer. But Apathy is nothing, Love is everything. Darkness has the same relationship with Light. It cannot even compete. Once light has come, darkness has lost its meaning. Darkness may remain, but only in its hiding places from the light.

I have to remember that when there are dark days. I have seen the light. The light has come. Darkness cannot even compete. I hold the light. I share the light. I know that there is light even when I cannot see it. Darkness has no meaning. Darkness only remains in its hiding places from the light.

A story is told of children who were rescued from the concentration camps. They were horribly scarred. Most of the scars were psychological. They lived in fear and terror and want for so long, they did not understand that their dark days were behind them. Often the children would wake up screaming in the night, terrified all over again. They were so terrified that could not separate the Then of the camps with the Now of their safe, new homes. Their guardians and therapists were at a loss with what to do. That is until the thought about the one time of the day when they were not afraid. It was when they were eating. When they had a plate of food, they acted calm, and eating ravenously. They ate fast, not knowing if or when the food would disappear. So one of the counselors started handing out bread before bedtime. The children would take a simple roll with them, and what they found was that when the children woke up scared, they would hold onto the bread and know that the dark days were over.  Sleeping with bread gave them hope.

Light in the darkness gives hope. That is why we have Advent every year. It is our Bread in the midst of the Night, these shortening, darkening days, every year. We are reminded every year, that the light has come. The Darkness cannot overcome, comprehend, even compete with the Light. That is Christmas.

If you have ever taken a beginning psychology class, or had a seminar on helping meet people’s problems, it all comes back to needs. Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, his Hierarchy of Needs it is called, looks at a slow progression of basic needs at the bottom and moving all the way of to a sense of Meaning at the top. It begins with the Physiological: air, water, food, shelter. Safety comes next, and that sense of being secure. Love/Belonging is next, with the care of one’s interior life. Growing out of Love/Belonging is Esteem. Esteem is the care of our inner life. It can only be addressed when all of the other needs are cared for. Finally, at the pinnacle for Maslow comes Self-Actualization, when we are finally able to be who we were born to be. It is hard for me not to hear Jesus speaking to all of these needs in his coming. He cared for people’s basic needs in the feeding of the 5,000 and he spoke to Self-Actualization at the Great Commission sending people out to share his message and Good News. And Jesus covers all the levels in between. The Gospel is particular and authentic as it meets people where they are. To the Hungry, the Good News is Food. To the Blind, it is Sight. To the person feeling unloved, it is Community and Family. To the person feeling Unworthy, it is the still, small voice promising that they are Worthy. To the person searching for meaning, why they are here, the Gospel is a calling and a purpose. “For Freedom Christ has set us Free,” Paul reminds us. (Galatians 5:1) And that is the Light that shines in the Darkness, wherever we are, and whatever we do. Christ came so that we might have life, and have it to the full.(John 10:10b)

I used to take kids into caves. I got paid to do it at the summer camp where I worked. A big part of learning to be in a cave is learning what Darkness truly is. Most of us have never, ever been truly in the Dark. At one point in most caves, you are in deep enough that the light cannot get in that far in from the surface. We use light all the time to orient ourselves. We use it to orient ourselves to our position, to the time of the day, to so many things. And while we use light, learning what it is like without it is important, too. We would get in a safe spot, and show the children what it was like. We would leave on light on, and describe what was about to happen so they would all feel and stay safe. I would cover over my flashlight and the glow would break through my fingers. That faint glow would seem like so much soon. And then, when all was ready, we would turn out all lights, and sit in the Darkness. After about a minute I would invite the kids to wave their hands in front of their faces. Their brains, so conditioned to being in the light, would convince them that they could see their hands waving. I would ask them to close their eyes and do it again, and again their brains would “see,” supposedly, their hands waving. We so long for the light. Our whole bodies are designed to seek and absorb the light. I would pull out a lighter, and ask them to look toward where my voice was coming from. They would look my way, and I would strike the lighter. Having become accustomed to the dark, the individual sparks would stand out, and the flame would seem blinding. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome, comprehend, or even compete with it.

The kids would often go off and explore in the halls and nooks and crannies around where we were sitting, and I would sit there alone in the dark. I would place myself in the tunnel leading out so no one could get past me. I could hear them, and see the faint glow of their lights in the distance. After a few minutes, I could only hear them. And still I would sit there in the dark. I was not scared, I knew I had a flashlight in my hand. I was not scared, because I knew I had a lighter in my pocket. I was not scared, I knew the way back to the Light outside the cave.

Christmas is just that, the celebration that the light has come into the world. Especially when we feel that the world is dark, and that there is no light in the world. Remember, you know the light. In fact, you have a lighter in your pocket. When the world seems darkest, that means the dawn will soon be here.

From the beginning of the Gospel of John…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. 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.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

[Light candle.] The light shines in the Darkness and the Darkness cannot even compete. Merry Christmas!

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Blessings, Rock