226_JSG-_head_shot_2December 2016

Light Shines in the Darkness

On Christmas morning, we will proclaim, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  These words from the poetic prologue to the Gospel of John remind us that nothing and no one can overshadow the light of Christ.  The evangelist goes on to say that John the Baptist “himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:8-9)

Day by day for most of December, our days get shorter.  Darkness surrounds us.  For some, limited sunlight brings depression with it.  For others, the holidays serve as reminders that our lives are not abundant in the ways we want. For many, preparations for Christmas bring to heart and mind those we have loved and lost.  And for lots this year, the deep divisions in our nation and fear about the future cast long shadows over these days.

Recently ECCO’s parent organization PICO hosted a network-wide conference call.  Pastor Trina from Stockton, California began with a faith reflection on hope.  She reminded us that hope does not deny painful realities, and that grief and hope can coexist.  But, she also called us to action.  She commented, “Friends don’t let friends lose hope.”  She insisted that, as Christians, we believe that light defeats darkness, love defeats hate, and life defeats death.  PICO Executive Director Scott Reed quoted from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon: “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”  Scott then challenged us, as Dr. King challenged the people of Memphis, to be stars in the darkness.

These dark, December days invite us be bright lights in the darkness.  This year’s pledge campaign encourages each of us to let our light shine, and to pledge to St. Stephen’s so that our church can both keep our lights on and be a beacon of Christ’s light in our community.

We all know that the frenzy of the Christmas season can be filled with over-indulgence—too much food and drink, too many parties, too much to do, too much spending.  But Advent strikes a different note; Advent asks us to wait and contemplate.  Week-by-week as we light Advent candles and wait for the lighting of the Christ candle, Advent challenges us to consider how we are the light of Christ.

Ask yourself, how do I bring light into the lives of those I love, my family and friends?  How do I bring light to those who are suffering or struggling?  How do I bring light to those who are living in fear?  How do I bring light to those who are discouraged and despairing?  How do I bring light to my own life when it is not all I want it to be?

Take advantage of the worship, prayer, study, and service opportunities of Advent as you reflect on how God wants and needs you to bring light to the world.  And as you join us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, offer Christ the gift of your light.

Merry Christmas!