The Dawn of Light

Scripture Text: John 1: 1-14 (Christmas)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And 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.

The Light has come!  The Dawn is here! 

God created Light. 

And Light pushed the darkness into the shadows.

Light came and the world looked different, illuminated for the first time.

Light invited us to journey in a different way, to walk with Light.

But we wandered in the darkness, often mistaking shadows for Light.

The darkness sometimes made us afraid so we befriended darkness.

And then darkness taught us that we could see more clearly with Light.

So there, there in the darkness, we began to find Light.

Light began to flicker and shimmer over the waters and the earth and filled our space.

Light was like nothing we had ever known.

Light surrounded us and invited us into itself.

But we held back in the darkness, holding the Light at bay.

So, Light continued to shine into everything, even the dark and jagged corners of our world.

When we were lost, Light looked for us and we were found.

When we were grieving, Light held our hand.

When we were more comfortable in the darkness, Light waited patiently and beckoned us toward itself.

And when we could not find the Light, Light showed us our strength and our faith.

And then, undeterred, Light came, tiptoeing into our world, into even the darkness, without welcome or accolade.

And Light was laid aside.

So, quietly, oh so quietly, Light began to dance, filling the room, filling the world, filling us with Light.

Those who knew darkness suddenly knew Light.

Those who relied on shadows saw the way Light moves through them.

Light played.  Light danced. Light shimmered into the shadows of the world.

And Light invited us to join, to play, to dance, to shimmer.

And then we became part of the Light.

And even the darkness was filled with Light.

Light has dawned.  And Light asks us to dance—even in our darkness.  And we find that we are full of Light. 

The Light has come!  The Dawn is here! Go and be Light!  Merry Christmas!

The Christmas spirit is that hope which tenaciously clings to the hearts of the faithful and announces in the face of any Herod the world can produce and all the inn doors slammed in our faces and all the dark nights of our souls, that with God all things still are possible, that even now unto us a Child is born! (Ann Weems)

Thank you for joining me again this year as we journeyed toward the Light!  I needed it and I hope it provided a wonderful Advent for you.  Now I’m taking a little break because, frankly, every day is A LOT!  Look for some “not every day” writings now!  And I’d love to hear from you!  Go into the Light!

Merry Christmas!


The Story of Light

Scripture Text: Luke 2: 1-14 (Christmas Eve)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

It’s finally here, this night of nights.  The Light for which we’ve waited and journeyed toward peers into the darkness and the world is changed forever.  We love this story.  Most of us could probably recite it from memory.  And, yet, the story may not be EXACTLY the way we think.  It’s not like there was someone with a video camera following them around that night.  Only two of the canonical Gospel writers even tell the story and they tell it very differently.  The non-canonical Gospel According to James tells it in more detail but the birth takes place in some sort of cave.  (But, in all honesty, where did you actually read about a stable?)  The same account also brings in a midwife, which, when you think about it, makes a whole lot of sense.  So, no, I’m not trying to tear down your much-beloved story.  The truth is, it’s not about the story; it’s about the birth.  It’s also about the Light.  It’s about the Light of God coming into the world, however that may have happened.

This is the story of Light.  It’s the Light that has always been there, the light that was created so long ago.  It’s the light that led people home over and over again.  But it was always a light that was hidden in a cloud or shrouded on a mountain or even set in the promise of a bow in the clouds.  But this night, this story, tells of Light not shining onto the earth but coming into the earth, mingling with us and giving us life.  This is the night that our story becomes the story of Light.

The Bible is not about people trying to get to God or get to the Light; it’s about the story, the story of God.  And this part of it, this chapter that we read and relive tonight, this holy night is not the climax of the story; it is a new chapter, a new beginning.  19th century American author and pastor Henry Van Dyke once asked “And now that this story is told, what does it mean?  How can I tell?  What does life mean?”  And then he answered himself by saying, “If the meaning could be put into a single sentence, there would be no need of telling the story.”

This is the night of the story of God coming out of the darkness and out of the shadows and showing us what we could not see before.  The Light is beginning to dawn.  It’s not a new light.  But this time, the heavens themselves spilled into the earth so that the story would become ours.  This is the story of Light.  It’s also the story of us.  So, what comes next?  Go into the Light…and follow God to write your story.

To be continued…

I cannot create the light. The best I can do is put myself in the path of its beam.  (Annie Dillard) 

Grace and Peace,


The Light Shining in the Darkness

Scripture Text: Isaiah 9:2-7 (Christmas Eve text)

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

I used to live in a neighborhood where I always passed this wonderful old French colonial house with wonderful verandas lining both floors of the house.  For years, the house would outline the verandas with twinkling strings of lights during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  It was beautiful.  Then, for some reason I’ve never completely understood, they began to add more and more lights each year.  They started by stringing lights across the verandas three, five, seven, fifteen times.  Then, the next year, they did the same to the house. What was once a delightful twinkling of lights became what can only be described as a veritable blob of lights.  The house had been overtaken by light. And it was no longer beautiful.  In fact, it was a little off-putting.

So, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  This journey toward the Light is coming to an end, so to speak.  We know now that is does not actually end at all.  It’s more of a turn, a tilt, a leaning in.  But as we do that, we need to think about our time in the darkness.  See, light is not pretty or comforting or even helpful alone.  It’s blinding.  You can’t even see anything anymore.  Light is at its best when it illuminates the darkness and creates shadows and contrasts so that we can truly look at the Light.

Much of our lives, much of our existence is about traveling in darkness.  It is a holy darkness.  God created it.  And then God created Light to push back the darkness.  Now notice that it doesn’t say anywhere that the light is meant to dispel the darkness or cover up the darkness or in some way destroy the darkness into utter extinction.  Darkness is.  The Light is.  They live together, woven into a holy mix of light and shadows and clouds and stars and deep darkness.  That is life.  That is Life.  And that is where the people that walk there see the Light.  So, our act of coming out of the darkness into the marvelous Light is not one of leaving but of looking in another direction and finally learning to travel in the dark.  That’s called faith. 

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.

It gets darker and darker…and then Jesus is born.  (Ann Lamott) 

Grace and Peace,


The Coming of Light

Scripture Text: John 12: 44-46

44Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

I think we often have this sense that the Light is the end-all.  After all, it’s the thing to which we’ve journeyed, the thing for which we’ve searched.  But have you ever looked at light?  (I know.  You’re really not supposed to do that.)  But while I was thinking about this post, I looked up at my kitchen light.  It’s one of those flood lights that you can turn and redirect.  I was in my living room and it didn’t have many lights on so, basically, I was in the darkness looking at a light.  And behind the light, surrounding the light, was a circular rainbow.  See, there’s always more in the Light. And it could only be seen in the dark.

This Scripture comes in the midst of the readings that we use for Holy Week.  Jesus is preparing for the cross.  But part of that preparation was pointing yet again toward God.  Jesus more than once confirmed that he was the “Light to the world” but he never let it stop there.  There is always more to the Light.  Jesus was always quick to remind his followers of that.  He espoused that they were not believing in him as a person, as a man who showed them the Light.  They were rather believing in God.  They were looking toward the Light that Jesus had been sent to show them.

OK, hang with me here…at the risk of going all 4th century on you, I’m going to go all 4th century on you!  In “The Life of Moses”, St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 395) contends that a person’s encounter with the mystery of God comes in three parts—light, cloud, and darkness.  (I know, that sort of sounds backwards.)  He sees the first stage in our quest to encounter God in light, such as Moses’ vision of God in the burning bush, illuminating the darkness of our sin and ignorance about who God really is.  The second stage is a journey into partial darkness where Moses encounters God as the cloud, an intermingling of darkness and light.  The final stage is entering where God really is (not a place, mind you, but a way of being).  And in that, we come to the realization that God IS Light, that God IS Mystery, that God is utterly incomprehensible.  In this place, Moses declared on Mt. Sinai that he had seen God or, in other words, had seen the eternal mystery that is God and had finally begun to understand his part of that Mystery.

The crux of this rather long-winded explanation is that the Light to which we journey is not the end; it is the beginning.  The Light is the beginning of our knowing not God in God’s fullness.  We are not meant to know that.  God IS mystery.  But the Light to which we journey is the beginning of us knowing not who God is but who we are meant to be as we encounter our Creator, our Sustainer, our Redeemer, the One in whom we believe. It’s also the beginning of us finally knowing that the darkness is also filled with Light.  As we come into the Light as it dawns on the world, we begin to see beyond—and it is glorious!

I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

In every beginning, there is darkness.  The darkness of chaos seems eternal, Yet form emerges: light dawns, and life is born. (Sixth Service of The New Union Prayerbook) 

Grace and Peace,


An Invitation of Light

Scripture Text: Psalm 139: 11-12

11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

If you are reading this at the time that it posts, you are in the midst of the longest night of the year.  In meteorology, Earth’s winter season for the Northern Hemisphere and summer season for the Southern Hemisphere began on December 1, 2021.  But the December solstice brings in the astronomical winter and summer seasons, respectively, for the two hemispheres of Earth.  This will happen on December 21 at 15:59 UTC, which is 9:59 a.m. Central Standard Time for the United States.  At that time, the imagined axis of the Earth will “tilt” and the seasons will change.  So, for us, in the midst of the longest and darkest night, the Earth effectively tilts toward the light.  After that, the nights in the Northern Hemisphere will slowly begin to shorten and the days will slowly lengthen.

So, interestingly, as our journey brings us nearer to Christmas, even the Earth shifts a bit to lean toward the light.  I think that’s an important lesson.  Because, as we’ve talked about before, the Light for which we look does not come flooding in unexpectedly.  First, we journey in darkness so that we can learn the meaning of the Light.  Think of the Light that comes flickering in as an invitation—an invitation to change, an invitation to grow, an invitation to understanding the meaning of the Light itself in a different way.  And, so, in the darkness, we begin to tilt our axis, we begin to lean toward the Light.  The change in trajectory is not just a shift so that we can see the light better; the tilt is our response to the invitation.

As the Scripture implies, even in the darkest of hours, even when we feel covered by darkness, we know there is Light.  And as we tilt our lives, as we change our view, the darkness begins to be Light.  That is what Advent is—a tilt toward the Light or, even better, learning to keep leaning toward the Light, regardless of how much darkness we see.  Sometimes the purpose of our places of darkness are to compel us to move so that we can finally see the light, which means they really aren’t completely dark at all.  We’re almost there.  The Light is beckoning.  Lean in toward the Light.

Why fear the dark?  How can we help but love it when it is the darkness that brings the stars to us? What’s more: who does not know that it is on the darkest nights that the stars acquire their greatest splendor? (Archibishop Helder Camera) 

Grace and Peace,


The Light of the World

Peter Adams, Cristo-Redentor, Corcovado Mountain, Rio

Scripture Text: John 8:12

12Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

Jesus is the light of the world.  We’ve heard that many times.  We like that.  It comforts us, give us hope for this sometimes-messed up world in which we live.  So, we wait.  We wait for the Light to come flooding in, for the darkness to subside, for the world to be what it is and always was meant to be.  And in the meantime, we rely on faith.  We look toward Jesus to lead us home.

Does that sound about right?  But what if it’s different from what we imagine?  What if the waiting is not for the time that the Light will come and fill our world but for the time that we will finally let the Light into where we are standing now?  See, contrary to what we’d like to visualize, I’m beginning to believe that Jesus has no intention of lighting up the world like some sort of massive fluorescent light fixture.  God is not dangling full lighting at us as a reward for our faith or for changing our ways or anything else.

The Light is already here.  Jesus did not say “I am going to be the Light of the world” or “Someday I’ll light up the world”.  Jesus said “I AM the light of the world.  The Light is shining into the world.  Sometimes it is hidden.  Sometimes we hide from it.  Sometimes we shrink away from it.  Sometimes we miss it because we’re looking in another direction.  But the Light is here, shining its way into the world.  The world is made of Light.

This Season of Advent is not preparing us for the Light to come; it is preparing us to learn to see what is already here.  It wakes us up, clears our eyes, and shows us how to focus on the Light that is shining into our lives.  And if we look toward that Light, if we learn to see it even through the shadows, the darkness in which we sometimes reside will not disappear but will become a hollow space prepared for Light.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. (Desmond Tutu) 

Grace and Peace,


Magnification of Light

Russian School; The Virgin Hodegetria; Paintings Collection; mid-19th c, Victoria & Albert Museum, London;,

Scripture Text: Luke 1: 46-55 (Advent 4C Psalter)

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Here we go again.  Every year on this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Advent, we light all four colored candles on the wreath and we read this for our psalter.  It is well known and, depending on how it rests on you when you hear it, it is either the beautiful and poetic “Song of Mary” or it is the hard-hitting, uncomfortable Magnificat.  Magnificat is Latin for “magnifies”, from the root magnificare, which means “greatly” or “to make much of”.  E. Stanley Jones, an American Methodist missionary, once called the Magnificat “the most revolutionary document in the world.”  It is said that The Magnificat so terrified the Russian Czars that they tried to outlaw its reading.  It’s been used in Argentina to call for non-violent resistance and the government of Guatemala banned its recitation altogether in the 1980’s.  It is a call to revolution, the beginning of a new society, the dawn of a New Creation.

These words depict God’s vision for the world.  It is not a world where the best and the brightest and the richest and the most powerful come out on top.  It is not a world that we can control.  It is a world where God’s presence and God’s Light are poured onto all.  But it comes with a price. Those who have, those who are, those whose lives are filled with plenty are called to change, to open their lives to God and to others. Because God will scatter the proud, those who think they have it figured out, those who are so sure of their rightness and their righteousness.  In other words, those of us who think that we have it all nailed down will be shaken to our core.  The powerful–those with money, those with status, those with some false sense of who they are above others–will be brought down from their high places.  The poor and the disenfranchised, those who we think are not good enough or righteous enough, will be raised up. They will become the leaders, the powerful, the ones that we follow.  The hungry will feel pangs no more and those who have everything–the hoarders, the affluent, those are the ones whose coffers will be emptied to feed and house the world. 

These words are indeed a magnification, a magnification of Light.  We have journeyed toward the Light expecting it to save us, expecting it to shine its warm glow into our lives.  But when we read these words, we realize how bright the Light really is.  This Light doesn’t just shine on us.  It shines on everything, illuminating the dark corners and dirty vestibules of our world and exposing the pain and injustices that still exist and of which WE are still guilty.  It’s uncomfortable.  So, we are tempted to shrink back into the darkness once again.  The problem is that this IS a revolution and revolutions do not tend to be warm and fuzzy.  Revolutions have jagged edges that will cut into your heart and, yes, change you.

The Light is coming.  It is bright and magnified and something we’ve never seen before.  God came into the world to turn the world upside-down (or maybe right-side up).  God didn’t start it by choosing a great religious leader or a political powerhouse or even a charismatic young preacher.  God chose a girl, a poor underage girl from a third-world country with dark skin and dark eyes whose family may be so questionable that they are not even mentioned and whose marital status seemed to teeter on the edge of acceptable society.  God chose to shine the Light on the WHOLE world.  Our response is to reflect that Light and magnify it further.

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ. (Thomas Merton) 

Grace and Peace,