“Telling Time” 11/19/2017 by Rev. Stacy Swain (Click on title for audio)

Isaiah 9:1-7

Luke 4: 14 – 20


I don’t have them in my house.  But whenever I go my mother’ house, I am always grateful that they are there.  What I am speaking of, are those little night lights.  My mother carefully places those lights in key outlets throughout her house.  In her house, one can be assured that if one needs to get up in the deep darkness of the night, one will be able to find one’s way thanks to the radiance of a multitude of these little lights. In the disorientation that darkness can bring, I am grateful for them and find in them a comfort.   

But turns out light in the darkness has the power to be so very much more than only a source of comfort, however important that may be.  But before we go any further, Let us pray:

Holy One shine your light into our life we pray. Illuminate the way. Cast back the shadows, and enter in.   And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer, Amen.   

The Bible is full of beautify imagery of how God is present to and moves in the world and today we hear one that is particularly relatable  for us here in the northern latitude as our days become shorter and nights lengthen.  And that of course is the image we hear from the Scripture from Isaiah this morning and that is the image of light and darkness.  

The first time we hear this of this image is straight way in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.  In Genesis, we here that “in the beginning,” the first of God’s generative acts is to call forth light and to separate the light from the darkness.

We hear this again in this scripture for today, where:

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.

Again we know wo well we will hear in our passage on Christmas Eve , where we will read from the opening chapter of the Gospel of John that:  

            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,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 

Light coming into the darkness is a powerful image for it is one that we can so readily and viscerally respond to because we all know what it is to experience night  We know what it is to awake in the middle of the night, and to try to make our way in the darkness.  We know what it feels like to stub our toe on the door frame or trip over the laundry basket left in the hallway.   We all know the disorientation of groping along the walls trying to remember the lay of the land when the darkness has rendered it all invisible. 

We know the disorientation that comes from a sudden loss of someone who we love, or of fearing the safety of loved ones, or facing the end of a job, or being caught up short by the end of a relationship. We now that there is much that takes us to our knees, and plunges us in darkness.    

And this disorientation and stumbling is not just something we as individuals feels but it can also be a collective dislocation, which I think is what a part of our nation experienced a year ago and that many are still finding their way back from.   

Darkness is something we know.  It is not a stranger to us.  So too do we know the feeling of gratitude when dawn finally comes and the shadows slip away at least for a little while.

It is not surprising then that this is a particularly powerful image for how God is at work in our world and in our lives.  God is the Son..  God is about delivering us from places of deep darkness into the light.  About freeing the captive, giving sight to the blind, and breaking forth the year of the lords favor. 

(now as an aside, but an important one.  I am dealing here with this biblical imagery in the scripture of light and darkness.  What I am not doing is making some kind of universal value statement about how good light is and how bad darkness is.  We know that seeds germinate in the darkness of the soil, babies grow in the darkness of the womb, we need rest and sleep and much wisdom resides in the realm of not knowing/in the darkness of the mind.  We also know that the pairing of light with goodness and dark with what is not good has been harmful to our brothers and sisters of color. What I am doing here is simply entering into this biblical image as one way to help us to understand how God is moving in the world and in our lives.)

So if we can stay with this imagery, what happens when light comes into the darkness?  Well, for one, we are able to begin to see more clearly.  Light illuminate the contours around us. Gives shape to things.  When the light of God’s love illuminates our vision, we begin to see things more clearly. We are able to see what is good and right and to give thanks for that.  To give God our heartfelt gratitude.  But when the light of God’s love illuminates our vision we are also able to see more clearly what is not right.  We can see what is broken and unjust.

I see light breaking forth in the insistence that black lives matter. Breaking us out of a narrative that black bodies were simply the means to secure white privilege.    

I see light breaking forth in the testimony of the women who are coming out of years and years of silence and shame to name what happened to them and to expose the sin of misogyny that is seeded not only within individuals but also deeply within our culture.  

Light is breaking forth as well in the work of the moral revival, the work of Rev. Barbor and others that are shinning the light of scrutiny on issues of poverty in this nation and seeing examining that in the 50 years since the Rev. Dr. MLK Jr, launched the poor people’s campaign, there is still work that needs to be done.

There are countless examples, of how the light breaking forth illuminating and helping us to see more clearly. That which needs to be tended to. 

But I also learned something recently about light that I found amazing.  Light does not just push back darkness, and does not just help us to see things more clearly.  Light actually transforms how it is that we see the world around us.  Light comes we can see once again the world around us but when the light comes the light actually changes what it is we see. 

Light brings not just revelation but formation as well.

Did you know that color does not exist in the absence of light?   That red shirt tossed over the chair in the corner, when the sun goes down and darkness descends that shirt does not continue as red. Look at that shirt at night and it is black.  It only seen as red when light falls upon it because the dye that is used to make it is of a substance that will absorb all the wave lengths of light except the red ones. The red wave lengths are reflected back and so when the light is shining on it become red, the red that it has the potential to be.   

Which light wavelengths are reflected or absorbed depends on the properties of the object. So that shirt thrown over the chair, when dawn comes and light streams in through the window that shirt looks red not because it actually is but because the light actually completed it and helped make it so.  It is the blessing of the light that gives color to all that we see around us.  Color is the result of this amazing interaction between then the properties of an object and the light itself.  Light actually is transformative,

So too is it with the light of God’s love.  Each of us has carries within us the properties of great beauty and radiance.  When the light of God’s love is able to enter into our lives, we too can be transformed giving expression to our inherent radiance.  We have spent the fall talking about practices that help us let the light of God’s love shine more fully into our lives.  These are practices not to earn God’s love or prove our worth but practices that help us to realize our own inherent worthiness and the abiding presence of God’s love. These are practices that clean the windshield as it were of our soul so that the radiance within us may more fully meet the light of God’s love.  We have been lifting up practices of repentance and forgiveness, service, generosity, wisdom, compassion and today the practice of gratitude. 

Now the challenge in all of this is that while we while we may want to always life in the light of God’s love, we sometimes find it hard to do so.  We may long for the light, but night is very much part of the reality in which we live.  Libby, I trust is living now fully in the light, but the rest of us surely are not.   Darkness abounds.  So where do we find the light that we need to illuminate our way, to show us the contours of our day and to meet us so that we can fully express and become the radiance that we are?

This gets to the very heart of the Gospel message and what we will wonder about through Advent and Celebrate on Christmas and that is that is that light is not just something that we wait for but something that already is very  much present to us and is what we are called and capacitated to be. 

And that is also our work and witness.  As we love and are loved, the light of God’s love within us burns brighter and brighter.   It is our work and witness as individuals and as a community to let that love shine forth.  In our homes, in our work place, in our community and world so that we actually participate in and help bring about the dawning for which we long.

We are to be aflame with the light of god’s love so that when we go out there into places of deep darkness we too may join with God in bringing clarity to the contours of our day, and shining light into the lives of those around us so that their true colors may come shining through (Thanks Cindy Lauper for that!).

Even as we wait for the dawning of the day when suffering will be no more, we join with each other and with God to let our little lights shine.  The good news is that the light of God’s love is within each and every one of us, as we are with each other and God in love.  Each and every one of us is called to and is capacitated to be a light of God’s love.  Let this house be full of radiance.  Let this house be one where we can find our Way.  And as we go from this place let us be a light to others.  Not only to comfort, but also to clarity to see what is broken and work for its healing.  And let us join with God in helping to draw forth the radiance of each and every one of God’s beloved children

Thanks be to God who is the light in the darkness, and who is and will surely be the light of the world.  Amen