Light, Love and Life
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
Please sing the following to “Deck the halls with boughs of holly.”
Deck the halls with lots of action. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Tis the season of distraction. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Don we now our panicked rushing. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
Troll the constant frantic wailing. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!!
Does this ring true for you right now? If it does, I’d like to offer an alternative from Scripture:
“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.” Isaiah 9:2
And an alternative from the Rule:
“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God.” Prol. 9a
And one to bring both together:
“See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” Prol. 22
We can follow either path. We can choose pervasive distraction, panic, rushing, franticness and wailing. Or we can open our eyes to the light from God, the love of God, and the life that God holds out to us. Light, love, light. Caught up in the preparations for the holidays we can lose sight of who and whose we are—the beloved of God. It is of this I would like to remind us today even if we are in the throes of not feeling beloved or loved by God because of circumstances, responsibilities, heartaches, or whatever else it is that pulls us from God’s light.
Many of us in the Northeast lost the light when an unprecedented early snowstorm in late October resulted in the loss of power for thousands. Our house was without power for four days. This event led to wearing a number of warm layers in the 50 degree chill of the house, cooking by candlelight on our gas range, getting more sleep, toplaying a board game by flickering candles, letting go of email, computer, television, and internet. In these changes I noticed things. I noticed the coming dusk as I prepared as much of our dinner as I could before daylight vanished. I noticed how the candles I placed on and around the stove glowed and brought a feeling of holiness to my preparations as if at an altar. I noticed how much better I felt after having more sleep and how the absence of technology made me realize, yet again, how it can nibble our time away, luring us into aimless occupation. I noticed, too, that John and I spent more time together, bonded by this little “adversity.” I noticed the camaraderie at the church where I and others who without power came to check email and recharge cell phones; “command central” as our rector named the room. When I managed to pry myself out of a warm bed, I noticed my gratitude for a hot bath made possible by our gas hot water heater and how wonderful and comforting my morning cup of hot tea was as I cradled it in icy hands. I noticed that my pace through the day was slower, more measured and not as anxious. These were the gifts given in the unexpected four days without power. Can we find gifts only in the unexpected?
The passage above from Isaiah reminds us that we seek that one great light that shines. Benedict says that it is the light that comes from God (Prologue 9). Our task is to be in the present, awake and open to receiving this light from God whose “love shows us the way of life.” (Prol. 20) Reflecting on our four days without power I realized that my conscious noticing brought me into the present moment. As we notice what is going on around us, what we are seeing, what we are hearing, and even what we are feeling, we move into a present moment that is filled with opportunity. God’s light can come in our enjoyment of the Christmas lights, in the laugh of a child, sharing a meal, listening to the glorious music of this season, reading prayerfully the stunning passages of scripture that speak to us of Jesus’ coming and birth, and hearing the angel say to us as to Mary, “The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid.” Benedict reminds us that “the divine presence is everywhere (19.1). We can pause to notice this in the ordinary stuff of life. You and I are the people who walk in darkness. Yet we can see the great light when we open our eyes to the light from God, however it comes.
Let’s set aside the distractions, the rushing, the panic and bask in the warmth of God’s Light, Love and Life offered to us in countless ways. Let’s trust in its presence and be present.
May your Advent be one of hope and peace and your Christmas be joyful.
© 2011 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine