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December 4, 2014, 1:00 PM

Celebrating the Return of the Light


“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

All this month, days continue to get shorter and the nights longer until the light begins its return after the solstice on the 21st.   Christians started celebrating the birth of Christ at the winter solstice sometime after the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official Roman Religion.  We don’t actually know what time of year Jesus was born.  Neither did Constantine; but for Christians, Jesus symbolizes the coming of the light into the world.  The gospel writers quoted Isaiah’s prophecy, “The people who live in deepest darkness have seen a great light,” to describe their experience of Christ.   Jesus was a wisdom teacher and a God-person-who-transcended-death so the birth of Christ belongs at this time of year—when the light begins to return and life begins to transcend the death of winter. 

For humans, light often symbolizes the divine.  We use candles to symbolize the presence of God.  The two candles on the communion table every Sunday symbolize the two Sabbath commandments—to observe the Sabbath and to honor the Sabbath.  In our everyday speech we use light symbolism.  As we approach the end of a difficult time, we “see light at the end of the tunnel.”  When we are excited about something, we say that our eyes “light up.”  In cartoons, a light bulb appears over someone’s head when they have an idea.   Brides on their wedding day are always “radiant.”  In tough times, we are reminded that “it’s always darkest just before the dawn” or “it has to be dark to see the stars.”  We all know it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. When we clear up confusion about something we “shed light” on it.  When we understand something in a new way we are “seeing it in a new light.”  So, in addition to light symbolizing the spirit or the divine; light symbolizes hope, insight, joy, wisdom, appreciation, understanding, courage, a fresh start and newness of life.  That is why we celebrate Jesus’ birth near the solstice.

I recently bought a new pillar candle and the label on the bottom warned “never to leave a lit candle unattended.”  Good spiritual advice.  Always attend to the light and carry it with you wherever you go.  In the midst of this busy “holiday” season, I invite you to attend to the light by joining in worship on Sunday and taking home an Advent devotional which are available in the office or at the back of the church.  Carry the light with you to join in our intergenerational “Wrapping for Humanity” volunteer effort at the Danbury Mall on December 7th.  We will, again this year, offer an evening “Service of Comfort and Peace,” on December 21st.  If you know someone for whom the holidays will be difficult this year, bring them to this peaceful and hopeful candlelight service.   At our 5:30pm Christmas Eve service this year, the children will once again help us tell the story through lessons and carols and lighten up as we distribute the Christmas oranges.  At the 10:00 service we will once again pass the light from candle to candle as we await the coming of the light of Christ.

Advent begins on November 30th this year. Each week, we will be lighting one additional candle to symbolize the hope, peace, joy, and love that the “coming one” represents.  I hope you will join us and bring a friend.

~ Pastor Cheryl

 

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