Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In The Dark Street Shineth -

Tonight I have the privilege of hosting a candle light service at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Below is my sermon. Merry Christmas to you, thanks for making this drive with me.

The Christmas story begins in darkness. There was darkness of oppression, there was darkness of persecution, there was a darkness of disillusionment. There was a loss of faith, a loss of hope.

As true as it was then, it is true again now. We may feel as if we live in a world of darkness; there are wars, rumors of war, hunger and unemployment, racism, loneliness, and often a sense of emptiness.

Thus, Christmas can be a difficult time for those who carry the burden of hard work, stressful family situations, poor health, personal loss. I have experienced darkness in all of these realms, as most of us have. But it is in the darkness, as we become acquainted with the night, that we can then begin to find light. I received two bits of great advice while going through my own struggles – one being, “Become friends with the night.” In acknowledging the dark – whether it’s anger, pain, despair, we can then begin to look for light. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “People who walk in darkness have seen a great light.” John’s Gospel records, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is why we can sing, with affirmation, about the Son of God, Love’s pure Light. “Yet, in the dark street shineth the everlasting light.” Pope Francis said, “Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And this is true with pain, anger, frustration, fear, emptiness. Acknowledge the darkness, then reach toward the light – friends, family, medical caregivers, your Higher Power. If we can remember that Christ came into our world to lift up all those who are bowed down, heavily laden, then we can find comfort.

Jesus explained his God-given mission on earth, “To proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” (Luke 4:18) Jesus came to lift our burdens so we can raise our eyes to welcome Him. His light brings us hope. His light is eternal, it is not a temporary flicker. We need to remember that; there are times, in then events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives that we may feel the light snuffed out. Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

The Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light, His light, still shines.  When the world heard that Christ was born, followed by a bright shining star/light, marking the place of His birth, there was great hope – the light of the world had arrived.  I am convinced this was not by accident. I see the stars at night as that continual reminder, that in the sea of darkness, the light keeps us moving forward. Today we can be His light, we can allow His light to shine through us. We can do this by lending a hand, sharing a smile, giving words of kindness, and acknowledging other’s pain. In the midst of pain and suffering, the darkness is real; but because of Christmas, it will never be so dark that we cannot see the light.

O Little Town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
 Are met in thee tonight.

One of our greatest needs today is to find hope, to know that life is worth living, no matter what. In Jesus Christ we can cling to the hope that life overcomes death, love conquers hate, and truth will prevail over falsehood. It is the light of hope and the light of Jesus Christ that leads the way and dispels the gloom. Faith in Christ is not a leap into the dark; it’s a step into the Light. In Psalms 37:14, we read, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

It is my prayer that the light of Christmas will shine for you and will enlighten the dark corners of your life, and that you too, will discover your way along your journey, because He lives, His light does shine.

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