Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Eve: The Light Shineth in Darkness, and the Darkness Comprehended It Not

Good evening, and welcome; I’m happy to welcome you here tonight. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or something else, no matter what your belief or unbelief, we are glad that you are here to celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord.

Let me announce some changes in the program. Our sixth lesson will not be read by Mark Wingerson but by Jenny Burrill. Another soprano soloist tonight is Merrill Grant. Michael Daves will be singing the traditional number, Star of Bethlehem, with Eva Lawitz on bass.

Tonight you do not get your own candle, and we’re sorry to disappoint you. But with the difficult means of exit up here we need to keep you safe. You will get your own candle when we return to our main sanctuary, which is a reason to look forward to it. We long to hear again someday the glory of our pipe organ, but we also love to have Aleeza Meir directing her chamber orchestra up here, so God is good.

Meanwhile, it was right for you to come here tonight, whatever your reasons, whether you worship Christ or simply admire him, your complex reasons and your overlapping reasons. One very deep reason you all share, so allow me to bring it out of you and elucidate it for you.

You came for the light. You came to choose for the light and choose against the darkness. Yes, because it is dark out there right now, and the darkness threatens all the other points of light. You came tonight to listen again to those words from our ninth and final lesson: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. It’s dark out there, but you came tonight because, against that darkness, you are choosing for the light.

Of course there is a darkness which is good, the loveliness of night-time, the time for rest and silence. Darkness has its place. But there’s also a darkness out of place, a resistance to the light, a darkness chosen, a cover, a cloaking, a willful obfuscation. It is powerful, and it overpowers you even when it’s you who have chosen it.

It is compelling. It tells you it’s the true state of affairs, and that the universe is vast and cold and dark, and that existence in it is a struggle to survive – the survival of the fittest, the strong against the weak, the wolf against the lamb, the lion against the ox, the poison asp against the infant child, the cold hard facts against the vision of Isaiah in our fourth lesson, the law of club and fang – and that finally there is no peace except by self-defense and no justice but by retaliation.

The darkness tempts you to choose it because it offers you cover and relief. It covers your guilt and shame. It lets you keep your secrets. It lets you maintain your ignorance. You can hide your prejudice and your resentments, you can cover your fear and cloak your anger.

You can choose it but you can’t control it, because it also gives cover to the evil spirits, and I don’t mean ghosts and goblins, I mean the cultural spirits of greed and corruption, of exploitation, and of hatred and fear, which, once you let them loose, will grow on you. The darkness gives cover to the spirit of violence which is loose in our land, violence taking on a life of its own and breeding itself in us, violence feeding on our anger and our fear, violence feeding itself on murder and suicide and tempting us to turn our backs against each other. The voice that calls you to do that is calling you to choose for darkness. But you want to choose against that, which is why you came here tonight.

They know not what they do. Darkness does not comprehend itself, because it does not comprehend the light, and it’s only because of the light that you can identify the darkness. By choosing the light you can see that spirit of violence and reject it, you can see that the stronghold of hostility is a prison, and that you don’t have to turn your back on any other child of God. You can comprehend the light, and you get help for that from the music and the lessons, which is why you are here tonight.

Let the story told by the the lessons encourage you, because the darkness seems to be constant. The lessons tell you what so many of the world’s religions agree on, that the truer constant is the light, and science agrees with this as well, that light is the constant, not darkness. There’s your hope, there is your encouragement.

Tonight it is a tiny light, a little baby. You can choose his light. In the fifth and sixth lessons you will hear again how Mary and Joseph made their choices for his light.

You choose it if you admire him and find in him an inspiration and example. You choose it if you worship him as Lord and God and find in him the living source of light. And if you came only to consider him, you may choose for light as well. No matter what else you came here for, you did come here for this, and you did well.

There is a glimmer in the shadows of the barn; it is tiny but it will not go out, the darkness does not overwhelm it. This little light is a miracle, a wonder, for in this light you see light, you can see all the other lights in the world that the darkness tried to hide, all the other deeds of love around the world, irrespective of religion, all the other acts of courage and generosity by individuals of every tribe and nation. Peace on earth, good will towards humankind. 

Sometimes the light surprises you when you sing, and it rekindles and strengthens your own little light inside you, and it breaks forth beauteous, and the greater light surrounds you like it did the shepherds, and you see the glory beyond a glimmer and you hear the music in the air.

Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Meeter, All Rights Reserved.

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