LIGHT SHINING IN THE DARKNESS:
A Pastoral Homily on Christmas Eve, 2020, by Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD, based upon John 1:1-5 for the people of St. John’s Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
Once upon a time, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Paula and I were on the shores of a Carolina beach. Twenty feet or so away from us was a family with four children. Those siblings had dug a hole that was deeper than the youngest sibling was tall. Jumping in and out, carrying buckets of water from the ocean and pouring it inside, jumping into the hole to splash one another before returning back to the ocean’s edge to refill their buckets. Beyond their play circle, I noticed a boy of about 7 years of age. He had no playmates. He watched the siblings most of the afternoon. When they started picking up toys to go inside, that boy walked over to the siblings and asked, “Are you finished with that hole?” They said, “yes.” And as they walked toward the condos, that boy got down into that hole and started digging the hole deeper.
Beloved, we are finished with this hole called 2020. Sure, we will carry some of its sand into 2021 and may find some granules in our cuffs and between our toes for a few years yet. But, we are finished with this 2020 hole. 2020 has exposed many other deep dark holes in our life together as humans. Some of these deep dark holes were dug long ago and we will be filling them in for quite some time into the future. But, we must never give up.
Imagine a world where every deep dark hole in which humanity lives today is filled with light. Imagine a world where many of the social and systemic sins of today are less dark. Imagine a world where light shines on hatred, prejudice, racism, murder, greed, poverty, victimization, sloth, apathy, hunger, war, injustice, caste systems, retaliation, shaming, homelessness, manipulation, violence, pollution, ignorance, and lies. Imagine a world where every deep dark hole is filled with the light of Christ. The place to begin such a world is within yourself. Whenever you come across darkness within yourself, you should remember the wisdom of the sage who advised, ‘If you find yourself in a deep hole, it is best to stop digging.” As part of the people of God in the world, you are helping one another and you are helping others to stop digging and offer the light of Jesus Christ.
On this Christmas Eve, although we huddle in the worship centers of our homes, our spirits are united by the Spirit of God. We are one in ministry through God’s light of Jesus Christ. As scattered Church, we take the light of Christ from our homes into many deep dark holes in today’s world.
Notice that John’s Gospel does not say that light eradicated or eliminated darkness. Light shines in the darkness and the darkness – although it may still be evident – the darkness is not able to overcome the light. Within your heart, you can hear God saying, “Let there be light – in here and over there and over there and over there.” As Ministers in Daily Life, wherever you receive God’s light or take God’s light, darkness is diminished.
Occasionally, I am chided for my rejection of the overused phrase, “it is what it is.” It is my position that this phrase partially describes reality. However, it is incomplete. Living in the light of God, you have committed to live in the fulness of reality (even if many people refuse to do so). And, the light of Christ is part of every situation in which you find yourself. You are part of God’s people in today’s world. You live right-side-up in this upside-down world. Because you carry the light of Jesus Christ, you can never look at hatred, prejudice, racism, murder, greed, poverty, victimization, hunger, war, injustice, caste systems, violence, homelessness, pollution or any other situation with the futility of an atheist or an agnostic. God’s light always makes every situation more than, “it is what it is.” Every situation is more than another deep, dark hole.
John 1:5 gives you God’s Christmas declaration: this beautiful word to empower you every day: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jesus Christ is the light of God you carry into the world. You are an essential worker, helping this world be a place with less darkness. Wherever you take the light of Christ, darkness is overcome. Don’t ever expect to fully comprehend how God’s light is working in you and through you in the life of the world. For, any god that can be fully understood is not The Living God.
Beloved, as you carry the light of Christ into 2021, together, you are taking God’s gifts of sustaining hope, transforming peace, contagious joy and compassionate love to brighten this world. The light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not; has not; will not; cannot overcome it.
Amen and AMEN!