Sermon Text: Walk With Light
The following is a public service announcement:
There are 31 days until Christmas.
Some of you are groaning inside while others are thrilled. My daughter is not thrilled. She is not crazy about holidays. They break up the routine, and people with autism are all about routine. So she’s not crazy about Christmas.
But the holiday she really hates is Halloween. It’s hard for someone with profound mental disabilities to make sense of all the spooky, scary stuff. I’ve always tried to help her with it.
One time years ago, we were in a fast food place near Halloween. There were monster posters on the wall. I tried to make them seem tame. I pointed at Frankenstein and said, “Marie, who’s that?” She said, “Frankenstein.” I pointed at the Mummy, and said, “Who’s that?” “The Mummy,” she said. Then I pointed at the Wolfman and said, “Who’s that?” She said, “Elvis!”
My daughter loves Elvis. Holidays, not so much. Elvis has a song called “Blue Christmas.” And we need to remember that a lot of people feel blue at holiday time.
We are already hearing Christmas music in stores and on the radio. I really hate the one that starts out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Maybe it is a wonderful time for a lot of people, and that’s great. But I know that for a lot of people, holidays aren’t so wonderful.
Winter is the darkest time of the year in our northern latitudes. Nights are long, days are short, and some people become seasonally sad. Not only that, but people miss distant family members or departed loved ones at the holidays. And if we feel kind of down anyway, it can make us feel guilty when society says we’re supposed to be happy at the most wonderful time of the year.
So if you love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, that’s great. Just remember that for some, it’s a tough time.
Now, I am fascinated by the truth about Christmas. We have no idea of the actual date of Jesus’ birth. Birth certificates are a modern invention, and peasant babies like Jesus were certainly not acknowledged widely. We don’t know the month, much less the day, of his birth.
So a couple hundred years after the time of Jesus, the church decided to choose a date on which to celebrate. And the time of the winter solstice was chosen. There were already pagan celebrations of the solstice, when the days start ever-so-slowly to get longer in our hemisphere, and when the light starts to return. So why not set the festival of Christmas, the arrival of the Light of the world, just as light starts to grow in the northern part of our planet?
And that’s how December 25 was chosen — and it’s just 31 days away, as I said.
Our second reading today was from Colossians. In 1977, I took my first seminary course in New Testament exegesis. We studied the letter to the Colossians in Greek. I worked really hard and got an A from the toughest professor at that seminary. I have had a soft spot in my heart for Colossians ever since.
This letter says that we have been rescued from darkness and brought into the light. And it’s all because of Christ, whom the letter calls “the firstborn of all creation and the head of the church.” We are now people of the light. And we have light to share.
I love the old story about an English professor in a small college. He told his class one day that he wanted to read them something. He said, “This is one of the finest, most elegant lines in all of English literature, so listen carefully.”
And then he read them these words: Walk with light. He read the words again softly: Walk with light. And a third time, more loudly: WALK WITH LIGHT.
The professor asked, “Isn’t that a wonderful thing to say to someone?” The class agreed. They wanted to know the source. What was the poem or essay from which the professor was reading? The professor said, “These words are anonymous. They are written on a sign at the stoplight at Main Street and Third Avenue. Walk with light.”
I love that. Even a traffic sign can remind us of what is important.
It’s getting dark outside. The days are shorter, the nights longer.
It’s getting dark outside. It feels like the bad guys are winning on the world stage.
It’s getting dark outside. People I love are having a hard time even during the holidays.
But it’s light in here.
It’s light near God’s altar.
It’s light wherever Christ shines.
Take the light of Christ with you in your heart today. There are a lot of people, including my sweet daughter, for whom we are coming to a hard time of year. They feel the darkness. They see the shadows. They feel sadness.
You and I can be the light of Christ for them.
You and I can bring a little light to them.
You and I can bring a little joy wherever we go.
My daughter once said, “Lighten up, Godboy!” Her words can apply to all of us church people. Lighten up. Share the light. Spread the light.
Actually, it’s our job, right? We are sent out at the end of church on a mission: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord...Let us go forth in the name of Christ.
Christ is our light. So when we go, let’s bring a little light, a little love, a little joy.
That will make the holidays — or any time — the most wonderful time of the year.