you ever watched a cat, when it's sleeping? It will
follow the ray of sunlight as it streams in the window
and moves around the room as the sun arches through the
afternoon sky. It doesn't matter whether it is summer or
winter, hot or cold. A cat will lay right in it, its fur
soaking up that sunlight and radiating warmth - when
they let you cuddle them - that is.
Now me, I will sit in the
sunlight these days - not for the warmth, but so that I
can read the fine print in the textbooks. All of us will
find reasons to seek out light - suntans, photosynthesis
happens - fruit trees, flowers, and vegetable crops
grow. Notice how indoor plants lean toward the windows?
It melts the ice and snow. Exposes film for processing
photos. Without light we could not see, for it is the
light reflected off or absorbed by objects that creates
colors, shapes and images on our eyes. The beauty of the
Northern Lights graces the skies over Alaska. Video
games, movies, computer screens all operate with light.
Laser light is a tool used by surgeons to correct
vision. We have solar powered heating systems,
calculators, and other electronic devices. The value of
light is immeasurable.
In fact, medical science has
recognized that many people are at high risk for
depression during the darker months of the winter. They
call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. Apparently there is
a cluster of brain cells located next to the retinal
nerves of the eyes that sends information about the
amount of sunlight to a part of the brain that helps
regulate our energy and emotions to prepare us for
activity or hybernation. And how do doctors treat it? By
bathing the patient in light.
Light, a most essential
component for the existence of life. And light is the
image that gospel text uses to describe the Word of God
- Jesus. Just think, God's created all that we see and
feel and taste and discover. And God spoke and God
appeared in human form for the whole world to see and
feel and taste and discover. In Jesus. With a touch of
his hand, Jesus healed, stormy seas were calmed, nets
filled with fish, water turned to wine, a few loaves fed
thousands. And the dead came forth from the grave.
Let me read you the previous 5
THIS is the good news that John
the Baptist testified to. That the source of all life
was now among us as life itself.
What do we know about this man
named John? The Pharisees didn't seem to know. They
asked him if he was the Messiah, Elijah, or a prophet,
or someone else? Why was he going around baptizing if he
wasn't someone special? How strange. For just 30 years
earlier John's mission was proclaimed. Both of John's
parents were members of priestly families. His mother,
Elizabeth a descendant of Aaron and his father Zechariah
a priest in the house of Abijah. In fact, because he did
not believe the angel, Zechariah was literally struck
speechless for nine months after John's conception. All
the other priests he worked with knew this, in fact,
they were there when his tongue was loosed and he spoke
of his son's future and his divine calling. Had they
forgotten so quickly?
But John had not forgotten. In
fact his whole life had been preparation for this time
to be the voice crying out in the wilderness. To prepare
the way for Jesus. To witness to the light that means
life. He did not have the advantage that we do today. We
have the entire New Testament to help us understand what
Jesus is. All of those miracles, all of those
significant events of Jesus' ministry had not yet
happened. But John knew. Luke's gospel tells us he knew
when he was but six months developed in his mother's
womb. He recognized the Lordship of an embryo that was
still only a glow on Mary's face. No doubt his parents
told him the stories of the angel's announcements. He
probably played with his cousin Jesus when they were
little boys, skipping rocks in the Jordan river, playing
tag in the outer yards of the temple grounds. Tradition
has it that when John was seven he was sent off to a
special community in the wilderness to learn the
scriptures, to live an austere life, to wait for God to
call him into action. We know he lived on bugs and wild
honey and wore clothing made of skins. His hair was
long. He had long ago given up any luxuries and focused
instead on the Word that had been handed down through
And now he was witnessing to
that Word. He was calling people to change their lives
to recognize the light that was already among them. I
can picture him walking through a crowd, turning to
everyone, seeking out their eyes, fixing his gaze
intently, speaking to them of the very source of life.
"Come be baptized. Be bathed first in water. Then when
he comes among you be bathed in his light." Oh, John
knew he was not the light, but he had absorbed it all
his life, he lived it, breathed it, and radiated it if
you dared get close to him. Ban the depression of the
darkness of the world.
Now, here we are in a season
that is at its darkest. Not only winter's short days of
sunlight, but we have circled around again into man's
most sinful nature - another season of humankind's
inhumanity to itself. Incomprehensible isn't it, this
cycling always toward self-destruction.
Yet, we stubbornly continue to
brighten up this season with the colorful twinkling
lights on rooftops, around windows, lining sidewalks,
trees all a glitter with shiny ornaments, tinsel,
garland. Why? Does it simply look pretty and sparkling
against the new fallen snow? Or are we like Luther who
brought a tree inside and decked it out with candles
because it reminded him of the vastness of creation,
each flame like the light from the stars sparkling in
the night sky? Or are these lights the unspoken words of
a hope for the future of the world? Each lit bulb a word
of prayer, a witness that we still believe in the
promise that Christ will come.
Is it an attempt to overcome the
darkness that tries to overwhelm us? The international
news is frightening. And I need to be bathed in Jesus'
light some days in order to smile.
When you wake up in the morning,
stand in front of the mirror, and flip on the switch,
what do you see? Do you look bedraggled from staying up
late watching TV, horror movies, playing video or
computer games, working on projects, writing research
papers. What would John have seen? Twigs, leaves and
bugs caught in his long beard from sleeping on the hard
ground? Or would he have looked past the surface and
into eyes intensely alight with the passion of his
mission - to share the light of Christ, the presence of
God among us?
Many of you were baptized, maybe
10, 20, 30, 50, 70 years ago. And when you were your
parents promised to place this book into your hands so
that you could become immersed into the light it
contained so you could proclaim the praise of God and
bear his creative redeeming Word to all the world.
You were also given a candle and
the pastor said, Let Your Light shine before others. . .
so you can glorify your Father in heaven.
Christmas Eve service, when
everyone's face is aglow with candlelight. Remember, You
were created by God, filled with life in the light of
Christ, gifted with witness, sustained by the Holy
Spirit? What else can you do? But go forth and let the
whole world see that you have been claimed by Christ.