December 24

John 1:3-9, LightChad_McCall-3

By The Rev. Chad McCall

My son turned 11 recently, and the morning of his birthday he became somewhat obsessed with knowing the exact time he was born. He wanted to be able to mark the occasion with celebration and know the precise second that he would grow one year older.  There almost seemed to be a sense of worry that he might  “miss” the opportunity. You could tell that he had been anticipating this moment for weeks/months during the build-up to his birthday, and now that the day had arrived, he wanted to be prepared.

I think that we find so much joy in celebrating a child’s birthday because it is a chance to remind the child how much they are loved, and because it marks how the arrival of a child forever changes how we live and move through the world. The moment that a little life enters our world, we are forever changed. We assume responsibility for loving, caring for, and raising this new life, and it affects all of our relationships and how we view the world. When we celebrate a child’s birthday, we are also marking the day that our own life was changed.

During Advent, we prepare to celebrate the arrival of the light of the world, the light of all people that came to shine in the darkness. This child of light came to the world to change how we live, how we love, and how we see God and each other. The day this light arrived, our lives were forever changed.

We are God’s beloved children, and this season serves as a reminder that we are loved and celebrated; a reminder that this light lives in us and in everyone that we encounter. To be a child of the light means not only that we remember that the light lives in us, we must also be able to see the light in those around us. During Advent, we prepare to mark the moment that our lives were forever changed. We celebrate the arrival of the light of the world, the light that lives in us and that changes how we love and see the world around us. Look for and celebrate the light that surrounds you this season, prepare to celebrate the moment your life was forever changed.

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December 23

Luke 1:46b-55, Light

By Adrian Woods

When I think of the light, I often think of a time when as a child I had to go downstairs at night to turn off a light. A light I had left on. This required that I go downstairs into the darkness, down a hall to the other side of the house. Fear was creeping. I would turn off the light, heart racing, and run as fast as I could back upstairs to safety; back to the light.

We live in a world of perpetual darkness. Suffering, pain, and oppression persists in a variety of forms throughout existence. Amidst the sheer dismay at the state of our country or our world, I often find a desire, a willing, a wishing that things might be different. You might call it a hope or longing that in the end good will overcome, at last.

We can reflect upon Mary’s song with a similar hope for a better world.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

    remembering to be merciful

As we move through this advent season let us reflect on how, as Paul says, “All of creation groans in anticipation.” Like children who run to the safety of the light in a dark house, let us look for the light, the breaking in of beauty and goodness in our world. Let us seek out the light and even bring about the goodness and beauty in our world with patience, kindness, and humility. In this season of Advent, let us a sing songs of hope for a time in which we are brought safely into the light, at last.

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December 22

John 12:35-36, Lightpeter

By Peter Hahn

Recently, I attended the baptism of a friend’s child. The family was presented with a lighted candle and the words, “Receive the light of Christ.”  I wondered how many times “light” is mentioned in scriptures and halted my search at 400, still in the Hebrew Bible. Earlier in John’s Gospel, we are told, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (KJV) So what IS this light that is so prominent in our readings? Why, in our passage, does there seem to be a warning about timeliness?

To me, in a world full of variables, there is one absolute in Christ who is the “light” and that light is TRUTH with a capital “T.” But our truth prevails as we lead our daily lives and that truth varies from person to person.  In our “darkness” we struggle to earn a living, deal with everyday problems, and lose sight of the truth we are being offered and for many, live in a realm of despair with our shortcomings. Essentially, we are walking in the darkness and do not know where we are going.

The light of Christ is our one non-changing truth and we need only to “believe in the light,” follow that path, and believe that all else will fall in line. Jesus, as John recounts, may be telling us that that an understanding will not always be available to us. However, in Advent, it is being offered once again and we must pay attention, step out of the darkness, and prepare to welcome the newborn Christ, the eternal and only truth, the “light of the world!”

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December 21

Psalm 36: 5-9, Lightbeth-hudson

By Beth Hudson

There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy, like the wideness of the sea…

The words of this beloved hymn are an interpretation of these verses from Psalm 36 that so splendidly describe God’s love and light to be greater than all creation. From the depths of the sea to the highest clouds in the sky, more infinite than our humanity can comprehend, God’s love and faithfulness are steadfast and strong. I love the connection of a Creator’s sustaining faithfulness to the beauty and breadth of creation, as it is indeed in nature that I unfailingly feel a most tender and loving kindness from God.

We are all imperfect beings, each of us inclined to flatter ourselves and unable to recognize our own sins, just as the first verses of Psalm 36 portray us. But it is these final verses of the Psalm that bring hope and joy, the recognition that despite our faults, God’s shining light is as mighty and steadfast as the mountains.

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December 20

Isaiah 60:1-5, Light

By Jonathan Mudge

Darkness. For our ancestors the darkness of night was a treacherous time. Today many people continue to live in perilous conditions in which these concerns are ever present.  Most of us are able to escape the physical darkness of night if we so choose. However, the periods of darkness that will inevitably enter our lives can cover our souls just as when nightfall covers the earth.  This darkness is just as real and dangerous.  We long for a light to guide us.

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December 19

Psalm 139:7-12, Light

By Robin Cooper

 A Stable Lamp is Lighted, Whose Glow shall wake the Sky. Hymn 104

The imagery for us is haunting: the picture of shepherds, barn animals, common folk huddled around the light, gazing in wonder – the first human sighting of our greatest gift.

It is hard for us to think of how the world has changed in 2,000 years.  But there were no electric lights and the calendar was just a dream.  Most people were farmers who depended on the land to provide.  When cold and dark increased people were afraid and unsure of the future.

The choice of the 25th of December as the official Day of celebration was not an accident.  The light of the sun, which represented life and hope, had been decreasing for the six months and now it was making its way back.  It was a gift, a sign.

Even now as we go through these dark and sometimes gloomy days of late autumn, we can get beaten down with the craziness of the season.

Let us not miss the returning of the light, the promise of God’s Everlasting Love and Salvation.

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December 18

Genesis 1:1-9, Lightlynn_small

By Lynn Osgood

History has its cycles, and the cycle we are living through today can feel particularly rancorous.  In a nation that seems bent upon dividing itself in two, we wake every day to hear and ingest the world’s bitterness.  So in these times, there is nothing we long for with more earnestness than to find Light in our world.  We search both within and outside ourselves to find a Light that will give us solace, a Light that shows the darkness of the world to be mere shadows, a Light that renders the unfathomable into pictures of wholeness, and a Light that lets the darkness we see in ourselves (and so quickly identify in others) to dissipate in a wash of grace and empathy.

As we search our world and ourselves for these moments of grace, we yearn for the power to quite simply say, “Now let there be Light,” and invoke the grace that can soothe our souls.  It is there however that we must give pause, for I believe we must never seek the Light too quickly – to seek it before we are really ready to stand in its witness.  If we move too quickly into erasing our discomfort of the darkness, I believe we chip away at our own ability to truly know the Light in its fullness.

I was taken aback this week, while listening to the radio and hearing singer Joyce DiDonato talk about a request she put out to her community.  In this request she asked, “In the midst of chaos, tell me how you find peace.”  One of the replies that returned to her was from Joseph Wilson, a musician living in incarceration in Sing Sing prison.  In Joseph’s journey with his own brokenness he invoked that moment when God said, “Let there be Light.” He wrote, “One would then have to reason that God himself was dwelling in the darkness.”

Could our own ability to stand in the darkness, to stand in that space where we most earnestly yearn for Light, in fact be one of the deepest moments of communion we share with God?

As we move towards the season of Light let us pray: Lord, grant us the ability to stay in witness to the darkness, so that we can feel You being born. 

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December 17

Luke 4:16-21, Hopejennifer-payne

By Jennifer Gallardo-Payne

“Our Father, who art in Heaven…”
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty…”
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”
“For God so loved the world…”
“In the beginning God created…”
“The Lord is my Shepherd…”

The above phrases are probably familiar to a lot of us, and I would say that I’m guilty of not always paying attention to what these quotes mean to me as I say or hear them. I am distracted, disinterested, or just plain lazy and so I miss their deeper meanings and promises, figuring I’ll just say or hear them again soon and pay attention then.

Jesus visited his home synagogue and read the words of Isaiah to the people present. These were words that the congregation had heard numerous times and probably didn’t give much thought to them as Jesus was reading them. They were distracted or disinterested. But then Jesus throws out the zinger… “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Whoa! Wait! What scripture? What does he mean? Jesus got their  attention.

Had I been sitting in that synagogue at that moment, I probably would’ve pulled out my pocket scroll of Isaiah and, after consulting the bulletin, found the passage, given it a quick read, and then a second reading before ever putting two and two together that this Jesus, Joseph’s kid from around the block, just said he was sent to do all these incredible things. Some nerve, that kid! Offering hope, freedom, good news, and peace like that! Who does he think he is?

But perhaps there was that one person, maybe in the back row, who paid close attention to all of this, and thought, “Praise God! This is just what I needed to hear! And look, there’s the man who will make it all possible!” This one person believed in what Jesus was offering – freedom, recovery, release. This one person left the synagogue with a renewed spirit and hope for their future. This was the one person Jesus was meant to speak to.

He desires to speak to all of us, if we give Him the opportunity. When we pay attention and give God a chance, He speaks to our hearts and gives us the perfect thing we need – comfort, peace, encouragement, release. It is through our faith in Him that we can hope for better situations for ourselves, expecting Him to provide exactly what we need when we need it.

How often do I miss out on those moments of encouragement by being distracted or lazy in my worship of the Lord? How many times have I said the Lord’s Prayer with an expectant heart? How many hymns have I sung without thinking about who I’m singing for? How much is God wanting to give me if I would just focus on Him and not my fears? Maybe I should stop my worrying and pay attention to that Joseph’s kid.

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December 16

Jeremiah 31:10-14, Hopemark-wells

By Mark Wells

The Message version of this passage starts, “Hear this, nations! GOD’s Message!” I am struck by how rarely I heed those words.  I am out of practice listening to these Biblical messages of hope. I’m trying to sit and listen to God’s Message.  Will you join me?

Recently I turned off NPR news.  I used to listen to the radio every morning while making breakfast.  At some point the stories about suicide bombings, mass shootings, refugees, and politics saturated me.  I felt powerless over these global issues.  Frankly, I have enough problems of my own.

In this context I sat down to read this passage.  I read it many times over several days.  It took a long time for the message of hope to break through to me.  I was reading the NRSV version, which is the translation we read on Sunday morning.  In verse 13, it says, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.”  This message of hope was too big and too fantastic for my bad-news saturated brain to accept.  Reading The Message helped.

In verse 13, The Message says, “I’ll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.”  Weeping and laughter I understand.  I have felt the calm that follows weeping.  I have laughed a lot.  I have been to support groups with both.  Lavish comfort I can also imagine.  And I love the image of joy invading grief.  Grief can feel so big, so overwhelming, and so never-ending, that the idea it would be completely converted to joy seems like false hope.  But, I have experienced a spark of joy inside grief and those sparks do provide hope.

The Message ends with these words from God, “I’ll make sure that their priests get three square meals a day and that my people have more than enough.”  Enough doesn’t seem like too much to hope for.  Then of course I realized I already have more than enough.

During this expectant advent season, I invite you to listen to God’s Message.  Like my radio, turn down the messages that isolate you from God’s Message.  Diligently look for hope that God is providing.  Look for invading joy.  Look for laughter.  Look for gladness.  Even look for “grain and wine and oil.”  Like me, you might not see it right away.  Keep looking.  Keep listening for God’s Message.

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December 15

Jeremiah 29:11-14, HopeRoger Temme

By Roger Temme

Many of us who are on social media today, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other apps, have to make sure we have a password that will be safe and secure so that no one can hack us. So, of course we “hope” that we won’t forget the many passwords we use because that is most frustrating for us. So is this what are hopes have often boiled down to – remembering passwords.  Well I suggest one password that we shouldn’t forget as we live our spiritual lives “Hope Forward.” The prophet, Jeremiah, says “For surely I know the plans for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (29:11).  This is God’s desire for us that we be safe and well and that our future be blessed with hope, care and love.

I recently asked friends to share how they envision hope and here’s what some replied – “Hope is a possibility of goodness, peace, love and healing through the uncertain and difficult times.” “Understanding that a path is always available and that you have courage to follow it.” “It gives us a positive outlook and allows us to dream, imagine and believe.” “Hope is my granddaughter as she grows and learns…children give me hope.”

Hope for me is the friends who lift me up when I am facing a serious illness, who provide a word of comfort when I find that a dear friend dies suddenly, who are silently present when I hear a challenging word from the cardiologist, who forgives me after many years of estrangement from each other. Hope is when God assures us that if we call on God, that God will hear us; that in searching for God, God will be found; and if we seek God with all our heart, God will be present. So our real and only password (that we should never forget or lose) is “Hope Forward.”

O God, who is love, you are our hope and life, give us courage and peace as we await your coming, not only at Christmas, but each day that we call on you and believe that you are near. Loving one, you are present to us in the caring and compassionate people who show up in our lives at good times and bad times.  May we be full of gratitude and always hope forward to a new day and a new future. Bless us today and in the days to come. May it be so! Amen!

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