Sermon – December 15, 2002 – A Light in the Darkness

December 15, 2002

A Light in the Darkness

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent 3

Like most children, I had my years when I was afraid of the dark. If I
forgot to turn on my night light, I would lie in the darkness and
conjure up the most unimaginable evils lurking in my closet or under my bed, and I
could scare the dickens out of myself, and I would become too scared to
get up and turn on the light. And I would steel myself up for a night of
terror, saying over and over again that everything will be OK in the
morning. On my better nights I would leap up, rush through the
darkness to my parent¹s room to hear my mother say, “Everything¹s going to be all
right.” As a child, Mom was the light.

It was not as if I was in some dungeon or cave. It was my own bedroom,
but the darkness changed my understanding of it. The space didn¹t change,
but the darkness changed my understanding. What was a robe hanging on the
door, in the darkness was the outline of some monster creeping toward me.
What was my closet became instead the entry to a whole den of demons.
Darkness can do that. It can take the familiar and twist it.

The consequence of darkness is to obscure and hide. And when we are in
the darkness, what we know to be true is often difficult or impossible to
discern. When we are in darkness the way we know becomes unfamiliar.
The function of darkness is to obscure, to hide. And we can feel helpless
and afraid.

The people of Israel were in darkness, separated from God, out of favor
with God. What a light it must have been to them, the reassurance they
received from Isaiah¹s words that one is come to proclaim liberty to the
captives and release to the prisoner, those bound by fear . They would be given
relief. God says so. God is sending someone. God is sending the light.

The function of light is to enlighten, to reveal, to chase away shadow,
to restore understanding. To illuminate the way. To unveil the
panorama. With light, we know where we are. We can discern the landscape, that
which is familiar is again understandable. The purpose of light is to
reveal.

John said, “I am the one who has come to testify to the light.” I am
the one who says, the light, the redemption that Isaiah foretold is upon
us. John spoke to people in darkness, in the darkness of unknowing, not
understanding, not apprehending what is happening. “There is one among
you whom you do not know,” he said. “The one who is coming after me, the
light.”

That is the light that we know. That is the light that has unveiled,
revealed for us God¹s intention, God¹s love, God¹s grace. Our
darkness, our unknowing has been lifted by the light. It’s one of our most
familiar passages. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. Jesus, the
light, came to show the way out of the darkness of sin and fear. The people
who lived in darkness have seen a great light. The light shines in the
darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. I am the light of the world.

It is true, however, that darkness still gathers around us, we
enlightened, graced, forgiven people of God, because the full reconciliation of
humanity has not been accomplished. Evil is still afoot in the world and
sometimes we think its given a too, too long leash. Death is still in the world,
bringing us fear and darkness, even though we know the promise that it
is not the last word.

Because we find ourselves in darkness, we gather together to remind
ourselves that the light that illuminated the way for the wise men and
lit up the fields of the shepherds revealed the light of the world come
among us, the hope of the world come among us, the peace of the world come
among us. We gather to tell that story again, to hear that story again, to
anticipate as we do now in this season of waiting, sometimes in our
shadows, sometimes in our darkness, seeking again that light, in our prayers
and among each other, to give us direction anew, to keep us on the path, to
cast new light for our footsteps, to scatter our darkness.

Our task, our gift, is to walk in that way, under that light. To
follow that direction and to lead others. When we get lost, we come back
to God and the people of God and say, “I’ve lost my way.” And we hear again,
“There was a woman named Mary who had a baby.” Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.

The darkness will find us in our time, so we will stop and ask
directions, in our prayers, in our worship. Now, I know there are some among us
who hesitate to ask directions. unless of course we carry the man gene,
which prevents us from doing so. Men have a little trouble asking
directions. Let me read you something from a woman named Judith Viorst. She
writes, “Even if I were collapsing from thirst and hunger. Even if I were
reduced to darkest gloom. Even if I observed between sobs that we should have
arrived three hours ago, and the inn was going to give away our rooms,
I still would be incapable of persuading my husband, when lost, to
stop–just stop–the car, and ask for directions.

Even if I were to throw a full-scale temper tantrum. Even if I were to
call him an uncouth name. Even if I were to not-so-gently remind him that,
should we wind up getting divorced, he would have nobody else but
himself to blame, and even if I, in a tone I Concede is called screaming,
enumerated his countless imperfections, I still would be incapable of persuading
my husband, when lost, to stop the car, and ask for directions.”

A light has been cast on our way, the road has been illuminated from
Bethlehem to the very heart of our lives and when we find ourselves in
shadow or darkness, we need to just ask, Dear God, I’m lost, dear
friend, I’m lost. To hear again “once there was a woman named Mary. She had
a baby. He was light.” To hear again that the light has come into the
world. That the way has been opened to us, that hope is renewed and that God
loves us.

Copyright (c) 2002 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus