"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined." — Isaiah 9:2-7
I want us to take a moment to reflect upon the images of December that we as a church have experienced this season, as we prepared for this night, the celebration of the coming of the Christ Child. It all began with going to the Messiah at the beginning of December where I and so many others watched the beautiful performance of the community choir and symphony which included four of our choir members. Watching them sing this beautiful musical tribute to our God made my heart full and brought tears to my eyes. They shined like angels in a heavenly choir, and it was a wonderful pause before the busyness began of the next few weeks.
Then came the frivolity and loveliness of our Christmas Party with the abundant feast and the joyful noise of our Christmas carols. The decorations and the partygoers were merry and bright.
Next came the final preparations for our First Confirmation during my tenure—an event that was planned and that we looked forward to for two years. The visit last Sunday by Bishop Kee Sloan was surrounded by the Holy Spirit as we celebrated the confirmation of 25 people into our church. You are ours and we will never let you go.
And then came the Christmas Food Bank Distribution this past week and all of the preparation and work required. I did not count, but I estimate that close to 80 volunteers worked on that major event. As I said last week, thank God for the Jasper High School Football team and coaches who packed those 700 holiday boxes, and the team of women who collected, cleaned, bought and distributed 1000’s of toys, not to mention those who baked the 200 dozen cookies and all who were present this past Thursday to welcome and serve our neighbors.
When you think about it, all of these blessed events required immense preparations over months and months. And all of that work was essentially in view of and in preparation for this very special Christmas Eve. The extent of our preparations and how we joyfully and mindfully and lovingly did all this work has been on my mind as we have walked through this December. Because as all of this has been going on, life has been going on as well. We have had precious babies and grandbabies born these months, and so we share the joy of the mothers and fathers, and the grandparents among us as we welcome little ones into our midst. But also these last few months we have buried some of our friends and family that we have lost, and we so we have mourned with those among us who have lost the ones they love. The seasons of our lives have therefore gone full circle, just as this season of Advent and now Christmas have come and and will go around again.
On the first Christmas Eve, the angels sang the message to the shepherds to go to the manger to see the child king who was born. After that joyful musical performance, you get the feeling that the rest of the night was a quiet time of adoration and peace. After all, we who have been around babies know that you do not want to wake them. And so I see in my mind peaceful scene of quiet adoration while the shepherds and later the 3 wisemen, come to see the baby born in Bethlehem. Quietly and in wonder. To witness the birth of child in the dark.
The story of the birth of our Lord is such a beautiful reminder that our time is so short. Babyhood, then childhood, flies by and then the next thing you know, you have a senior in college about to fly the nest. Life is so like that. Life goes by quickly. My message tonight is that as we celebrate, we take a pause and live fully in our moments. All of them, from choir performances to parties to confirmation and all points in between. Because the times of preparation are just as precious as the banner events. If you think about it, most of our lives are lived in those days in between the festivals. We celebrate two great festivals of our Lord, Beginning and the end. His birth and his death. Christmas and Easter. And like our Lord it is the parts in-between that may matter most. It is during those times that we will spend loving God and our neighbor. It is our time for our ministry on our earth, in our church, raising families, working for our communities.
Isaiah wrote, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy."
I live on the lake, and I have noticed that when two waves meet each other coming from separate directions, when they meet, they tend to flatten each other out. And that is how it is with our lives of faith. During our days in-between the great festivals of our lives, including our birth and our death, we will experience wave upon wave of darkness. Wave upon wave of meanness; wave upon wave of poverty; wave upon wave of illness and death; On the other hand, when we live our lives of faith, walking with our Lord who dwelt among us and lives on in each one of us, we are able through His spirit to meet these waves of darkness with wave after wave of goodness, charity, kindness, hope and true deep love. And when we do, the peace and love of our Lord, that began with a baby in the dark of night under the light of the Christmas star will spread to the world around us.