the light shines in the darknessThis is an adaptation of my sermon from Advent IV at St. C's, and yet it seems very appropriate for Christmas Eve. Blessings to all.
A month or so before I was to be ordained, I had some serious doubts about the whole thing. I wrestled with dark thoughts about my worthiness, my ability to actually be a priest. I relived everything wrong I had ever done, every mistake I had ever made, and felt the weight of all of my imperfections.
I finally called a friend, a colleague and asked to see her. At her house, I confided all of these doubts and fears to her. She listened very carefully and finally replied that she had been a priest a long time, and over the years she had come to believe in the power of darkness. She thought that as I was approaching the advent of this very good thing that it would try to overwhelm and distract me.
I've been a priest for a few years now, and like her, I've come to believe that there is an objective force for evil in the world. I don't believe in the idea of a "devil" with horns and a tail, but I am convinced that there are powers of darkness ranged against the power of light.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately as it has seemed like there is a dark cloud perched over our congregation for the last couple of months. So many families in our congregation struggling with personal tragedy, and in the past couple of weeks, the very fabric of our property here at the church, so many of the beautiful trees we loved collapsed under the weight of the ice. It seems as if there is something dark out there trying to distract us from our mission.
And to me it's not a coincidence that darkness might be at its height this time of year. I happen to believe that Christmas is a very, very good thing. Not the celebration our culture tries to turn it into, some twisted collision of Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart, some glittery expectation none of us can meet. Christmas itself is all about the Light coming into the world. So it's probably not a surprise that our inner voices of despair and gloom are heightened this time of year by an insidious darkness.
And sometimes those voices aren't so obviously dark. Think of Joseph--the voices would have been those of society, would have sounded so reasonable, sounded like conventional wisdom. "Who's she kidding, being pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Get her out of your life." And it was the angel, the messenger of light who appeared and said--"Fear not." How crucial was Joseph's part in the story--that Mary and the child Jesus would have protection from a husband and father in those dangerous times.
We get to choose which voices we listen to. On Christmas we are reminded that the Light came into a dark world, and the darkness did not overcome it, and so each one of us can have the strength to be part of that Light.
May your house be open to the Light, Emmanuel, God-with-us, on this Christmas, and on the Christmases yet to come.