This is the Sunday of Light: of the Light that shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has never put it out.
This is the Sunday we bear witness to the Light: the Light of the Good News of God.
What we have done this year, this past Advent and this ongoing Christmas season, is to bear forth into the world the Good news that is the Light of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.
We do this through our actions, as symbolic as our liturgy, and as concrete as our activity during the week, in the world. We show forth the Light, and we bear witness to it, potentially in all we do.
This past few weeks I have been the grateful witness and participant in many manifestations of the light in the midst of darkness. I have been aware of the darkness, of fear and misunderstanding and willful hate, of ignorance and exclusion and pompous piety. And I have been aware that throughout all of this we the witnesses to the light have not given up.
In fact, we have shone out! – in so many ways…
I see it in the processions – in the All Souls procession from St John the Evangelist parish church down to the mission church of San Xavier, and in Las Posadas right over on South Main Avenue with the schoolchildren of Carrillo School.
I have seen the light of Christ shining, being borne forth by his people.
I have seen it in the pointedly political bi-national Las Posadas on the border in Nogales, with the dioceses of Tucson and Nogales leading, and many people concerned with our border and immigration policy and practices taking part in a mildly long walk.
I have seen it in our Christmas celebrations, in church and community – church in community:
· Advent Lessons and Carols
· Bake sale at the Parade of Lights
· Carols and Beer!
· Longest Night service – and all our services.
When we take a gift to a friend or a greeting to a neighbor, when we wave someone ahead of us on the street or in line at the grocery store, it may not mean much to us – or to them. But it gets us going. It gets us started on another path than the one that leaves us in shadow.
When on Christmas Eve a few of us were talking through the fine points of the liturgy, Vicar Kate reminded us that the gospel book itself bears witness to the light. When it was carried first in procession, before the story of the Christ Child was read, it was the vessel of illumination. It carried a light that was leading the way – the light of the Good News of God.
As we heard that story again and for the first time that night, we could almost see the glow around the people gathered in the little town where the child lay. There in that faraway place, new Light had come into the world.
It came in dangerous times, in a risky way. It came in by the small door, not through palace gates, but in an ordinary small place.
Light comes to us sometimes without angels – or with only shepherds to witness. Sometimes we are the shepherds, the poor ones trying to keep warm on a cold night – just doing our jobs. But then…
The word comes to us and dwells among us, the word which is the light of all people.
We have a new job to do.
That job – that work – is to bear witness to the Light; what that means, how that plays out for each of us, is the daily task, and the daily opportunity, of our new lives in Christ.
May we as we go forth into the world into this new-coming year, bring with us a little bit of the glow of Christmas night, as we too, like the shepherds and angels before us, try to hold aloft the Light that reveals the truth to all, and the glory to all, of God with us.
Eternal light, scatter the darkness from our hearts and minds, enlighten our lives with you glory, and give us the power and wisdom to live as sons and daughters of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
David Adam, Glimpses of Glory (SPCK, 2000) 18.
Preached at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona. Sunday 27 December 2016