First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
Christmas Eve: December 24, 2019
Wisdom Readings: John 1:1-18, The Buddha
Advent Series: To Follow that Star! – Culmination
Message: “Traveling Light”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
There is not enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle.
We have been on a journey these last many weeks of Advent. We have been on a journey of following… perhaps even chasing the star. We have certainly been following the light. We began in the company of angels and the light of shepherds, encouraged to open our hearts and listen.
In this midst of the listening we spoke of the light of the angel’s revolutionary message, a message that would turn the status quo on its head, turn the world upside down. It was a message that came to some of the least of these and lowliest for the time. A message of the coming of a child to a young woman, a young woman who said upon receiving the news, “God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, brought down the powerful from their thrones, lifted up the lowly; filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” It was a scandalous message; it was a message of revolution.
The angels brought the message to shepherds in the fields as well, migrants, nomads, homeless… the least in the kindom… these listening hearts were given a call to action. This call… would be a difficult task… not a light weight undertaking…
We heard of courage in the face of adversity as we listened to the story of the light of Joseph and Mary. The courage of Mary to tell the story to Joseph, the courage of Joseph to risk reputation, career, standing, livelihood, perhaps even life to do the right thing. We heard the story of Joseph and Mary and the willingness and courage to stand toe to toe with the powers that be and risk it all. It was a scandalous message; it was a message of revolution. These two courageous ones were given a call to action, to not let the oppressive status quo, empire, and religious elite quash the call of the Divine upon their lives… a call to rise and say enough is enough. This call… would be a difficult task… not a light weight undertaking…
We heard of the journey of the light of the wise men from the east bearing gifts to pay homage to the new king. We listened as they encountered a blustery, paranoid, fear laden, fear mongering leader and king who would lie in order to maintain his power and reign… it was a time of distrust, division, and violence of word and deed. The grace of the wise ones to choose another road and not play into the hands of one who was only interested in power and self. They left us gifts of resource, senses, and balm for the difficult journey ahead. Gifts and a Call to Action as well… This call… would be a difficult task… not a light weight undertaking…
Just last Sunday we were inspired by light infused words of a newly born musical expression of this journey of light… an inspiration that invited us into movement after movement of a melodious call to action in a world “taxed by the madness of power, by terrors of violence, in a nation torn asunder where light of love can seem all but forgotten. A call to action where cruelty is no longer applauded and hopelessness and injustice are no longer the way. ”It is the child we seek, this child who calls us to action by his life and Way… “Vulnerable, boundless heart, the power of love… no threat can vanquish… a lowly child who wields nothing but love.”1 This call… would be a difficult task… not a light weight undertaking…
Each of these weeks… call us to action. Each of these weeks we have found ourselves seeking that light that will aide our journey… a little traveling light to illumine our darkness. Each of these weeks, in this traveling light, we are reminded of the Herods, and their colluders in our own world, who continue to wield power through fear, paranoia, lies, accusation, belittlement, and promoting violence of word and deed.
The birth narratives of Jesus in our gospels are not the tame Christmas pageants we in the church have often transformed them into… we have domesticated and toned them down so they do not make us so uncomfortable… these stories were and are deeply political, speaking directly to the powers that be… whether they be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the religious elite who have forgotten their role in critiquing the state.
It is exhausting work for the faithful to hold the powers at bay and to account. And, not unlike Jesus time itself… just because Christmas has arrived once again… the coming year will be filled with challenges and difficulties.
This season has called us into a time of action… however, just for a moment, I want us to ponder… perhaps something is afoot.. A new day… perhaps. It does not diminish the task that lay before us… it is well though, for us to take a breath. To some degree it is a bit like giving birth… especially in those moments just before the event… filled with anxiety, expectation, unknown, uncertainty… though we know, something is about to happen. Breathe…
This moment is time for us to catch our breath… A time to prepare… A time to gather together…. This moment is time for us to take in the light in which we are immersed… And here we are again… remembering that birth… a birth happening again and again and again… the one we call Christ, the one we call light, the one who calls us into the fray to make a difference, to make this world a better place to live… a little more just, a little more compassionate, a little more grace upon grace…. This one… and… “What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. And the Word became flesh and lived among us… pitched tent in the Greek… here… now …. grace upon grace.
We are traveling in the Light of new birth… again. Each of us will encounter this light, this birthing within a different way. Each of us will see this light, this birthing, in a different way. Each of us will live out this light, this birthing, in a different way… However, it will still be a birthing of the Christ within, filled with holy, sacred light.
Join me for just a moment… Take a deep breath, close your eyes, see the light, the Christ Child born this night…
Some children see Him lily white, The baby Jesus born this night, Some children see Him lily white, With tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown The Word of Love to earth come down, Some children see Him bronzed and brown, With dark and heavy hair.
Some children see Him almond-eyed, This Guiding Light we kneel beside, Some children see Him almond-eyed with skin of golden hue.
Some children see Him dark as they, Sweet Mary’s Son with whom we pray, Some children see him dark as they, And, oh they love Him too.
The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face, Like theirs, but bright, with heavenly grace, And filled with holy light.
Oh lay aside each earthly thing, And with our hearts as offering, Come gather ‘round the infant King,
‘Tis love that’s born tonight, ‘Tis love that’s born tonight
Rest Now. Let us set down all the unneeded offensive tools that only lead to more darkness and strife.
And move confidently into the Light of the Divine.
Lighten Your Step.
Lighten Your Heart.
Lighten Your Hearing.
Lighten Your Speaking.
Lighten Your Mind.
Lighten Your Life.
And then we shall go…
Following that Star!
Following that Light…
Immersed in the Traveling Light, wielding nothing but Love,
May we Shine, as we set the world on its head, where it belongs.
May it be so.
May it be soon.
1. Kurtz, Mark. Composer, (2019), The Awakened Messiah