A message for the December 13, 2015 Interfaith Jazz Vespers of Mt Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, CA.
What is it about Light? From the first flickers of fire, and the dim dusk and dawn, humans have been drawn to light. I don’t just mean teen boys and their pyro fascination either. We stare at the moon and use the stars to guide our paths and for millennia, when the sun darkened in eclipse, humanity assumed the worst. To celebrate life we light and blow out candles. Romantic and desirable dinners are candlelit and electricity was all about more light. Humans have a love affair with light.
I must admit, as a Christian, to share a faith related message, at this time of year, that does not center on Christmas is a challenge. As I pondered the common things that we all might enjoy of the Holiday season, I happened to remember Ben Stein’s commentary on Christmas a few years ago. In it, he mentions he is not offended by beautiful lit up bejeweled pine trees being called Christmas trees. Why? Because the Christmas message is not about exclusion, but about inclusion, an inviting into the joy and happiness that is signified by those pretty trees and the lights on those trees were for everyone to enjoy and celebrate. And suddenly it dawned on me; It is the light that we have in common.
Every major religion believes in some form of light and ‘inner light’ and they all have a festival of light at some point in the year to some degree. So what is it about light? In every culture, the presence or absence of light is an indicator or physical life or death in every culture and in fact, often, light signifies life itself.
So what is it about light? I think that we see our best selves in light. Better, when we see the good in others, we see their light and we are drawn to it. We are light and we are drawn to light. Ancient Christian Tradition believes that the community of believers is also a source of illumination. One might even argue that a community of all faiths, of all believers is also a source of illumination as well. Thus, we, in this room are a source of light… or of darkness.
Let me illustrate.When we choose to see the worst, we darken the flames of hope, peace, love, and joy. (The advent wreath is already lit, all four candles and each is blown out as the following is said).
When we hate our neighbor and close our borders, we darken hope.
When we judge by skin or “name”, we darken peace.
When we choose our possessions over the needy, we darken love.
And when we choose to keep to ourselves, we darken joy.
I invite you this season of light, to join the whole community and create light, be light and overcome the darkness. You do not need to be Christian to invite and foster light in the community that we are. Instead, offer a meal to a hungry person (re-light one candle with each suggestion). Listen to a lonely elderly neighbor tell that story for the 100th time. Forgive the person who wronged you. Support someone who has no one else.
The message of Christmas may be a reminder for Christians that Christ is the light to the world, But I think you will agree, there is no corner on the market when it comes to light. The light is all around us, it is in us, it is in our community, it IS our community. When we see the light, when we choose the light, the darkness is overcome and our hearts are filled, our community is fostered and our lives are changed, for the better. This holiday season, embrace the celebration of those around you, even the ones who believe differently and may the light of this season fill you with hope, peace, love and joy, for this night, and all our days and nights to come.