Christmas III – Epiphany
2017 – Cycle ABC
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
Can you resist the soft light of a candle?
Are you not drawn to a window and look up on the greyest of winter days for those few moments of sun and warmth we may experience? What about that first day in late winter when the sun teases us announcing that spring is soon approaching and we begin to daydream of the summer basking in the light and warmth of our nearest star? What lover is not captivated by the light of the moon and the stars on a bright, clear evening? We humans are drawn to light.
So enticed by light are we humans that we even put fireplaces into our homes, often, not for heat, but for the glow and the aesthetics. Who has not delighted in the human lights of Times Square? And yet in our age of electric and LED lighting we continue to use candles for festive tables and events.
We Catholics use candlelight before the images of Jesus, Mary and the saints to represent our prayers; to mark the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; to celebrate the sacred meal of the Eucharist; and to reveal that a newly baptized person is enlightened by Christ. Our Holy Days are deeply rooted in light: Christmas the birth of God in Jesus who is Light of the World; Candlemas, in the heart of winter, when we bless candles for the One who is “a light to the nations”; the Resurrection celebrating the light of Christ dispelling and destroying the darkness of sin and death; the Feasts of the Transfiguration and Assumption in the midst of the summer’s heat when Jesus is clothed in light and we are presented with an image of a woman arrayed with the sun and the moon and crowned with the stars of the zodiac. We Christians are drawn to light.
Why are we drawn to light?
Is it because, as astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan said, that we ourselves are made of stardust? Is it because our first experience as a human being is to move from the darkness of the womb through the birth canal into the light? Or is it because God who is light has called his sons and daughters, like the moon in relation to the sun, to reflect God-light? Isaiah proclaims, “Rise up in splendour, Jerusalem! … the glory of the Lord shines upon you”. How often do we turn off the lights when we bring a birthday cake into a room covered with candles and place it before the person being celebrated; a face bathed with candlelight…“the glory of the Lord shines upon you”. Our light, a reflection of God’s light.
Light is always needed to dispel darkness; a darkness and thick clouds Isaiah says that cover the earth and the peoples. How telling are the ancient prophet’s words for our own times. Who would not characterize our period as one of growing darkness and thick clouds? Consider…
- The clouds of fake news that is purposefully meant, in disguising itself as truth, to sow lies and confusion.
- The darkness of fear rooted in a perceived or real loss of identity resulting in a rise of tribalism and an unhealthy nationalism.
- The coarse and uncivil manner in which people speak to and treat each other.
- The bigoted blindness of Islamophobia, homophobia, anti–Semitism, and gender phobia resulting in the darkness of violence.
- The rise of the “strong man” as leaders who will make things right again. As if military and economic success is evidence of God’s favour?
- The dark rise of illiteracy resulting in unemployment and poverty becoming the seed bed of anger and violence in our city streets.
- The thick clouds of terrorism from San Bernardino and New York City to Berlin, Paris, and Brussels, on to the Middle East and Africa.
- The heavy clouds of dust rising from the movement of peoples across the globe. Refugees and immigrants, like magi searching, due to war, poverty, the drug and sex trades, poor economies, political and religious persecution or….(?)
Or might all this movement be a sign pointing toward a pilgrimage; a global searching among all peoples for…? For happiness? …for contentment? …to satisfy a hunger for a spiritual connection that is missing in people’s lives? …a hunger that expresses itself in violence, fear, the grasp for power, and incivility but in reality is a search for God, except in all the wrong places?
Correspondingly, if it looks like the influence of the Church and religion in general are in decline might it be that people, including ourselves, are not rejecting God or religion but are looking for new, deeper experiences of the divine that speak to our contemporary life?
Are you spiritually satisfied? Like the magi who traveled great distances, what are you looking for in life at this time? Might it be that we will find a deeper experience of God by reflecting the light of God to others? Thus we need to ask ourselves as individuals and as a church, what do we offer to those traveling alongside of us in the spiritual search? Because we may not have gold, frankincense and myrrh but we do have light. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun so we are to reflect the light of Jesus.
None of us can do everything. But all of us can do something. Each of us can forgive, we can show up, we can write a letter of advocacy, you can be part of the conversation toward a better future, we can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice [See Romans 12:15], you can sing, you can march for a just cause, we can teach a virtue to a child or correct and mentor a young person.
The God–light we reflect is the offering to people of hope. And hope is not naïve. It declares that we need each other not simply to survive but to thrive and flourish. The light of a star led magi to Christ. Do each of our lives, does our life as a Christian community at Saint Mary, first, attract people by our hope–filled light and then lead them to the source of light, Jesus Christ?
That is a light worth basking in.