Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Through Eyes of Hope: Thoughts on True Celebration

2013 Tree-Lighting Homily by Pastor Linda Haight

shine, for 
your light 
has come, and
the glory of the Lord
rises upon you. See, darkness 
covers the earth and thick darkness is 
over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and 
his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, 
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look 
about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your 
daughters are carried on the hip. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb 
and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.
60: 1-5

There is a commercial currently running on TV that begins with a statement about our eyes being wonderful things and continues to explain that these wonderful eyes can see the light, from a single candle, miles away. What really strikes me about this commercial is that in order to see the light of the one candle so far away… they must first turn the lights off on the many football fields that mark the distance between the seer and the candle. Many lights extinguished so one can shine more brightly. 

I love this time of year when we place lights everywhere. We light up our homes, our yards, our streets, and our neighborhoods. I love to bask in the glow of these lights that surround us.

Today, we come to add even more lights to our neighborhoods as we illuminate this tree decorated with the memories of our loved ones… and as I thought about this moment I reflected upon the fact that not all of these lights are happy and festive… some are painful and full of fear. 

As I reflected upon that realization, I thought about what it truly means to celebrate this holiday season. The world tells us that this is a joyous time and that is how we should act, no time for tears or sorrow. The world tells us that this time is filled with love and that is what we should feel, no time for broken hearts or missing loved ones. The world tells us that this time of year is filled with peace, no time for anger or fear. But then, we face the reality of our lives and begin to wonder what we do with all those feelings that we are told do not belong in the “Christmas festivities.” 

Harold Kushner has written, Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers, or a series of rituals. Religion is first and foremost a way of seeing. It can't change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can often make a real difference.”  

John 1:1-5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The fact remains that our eyes are wonderful things and as I get older, I find that I need more and more light and sometimes more and more distance, to see clearly. Allowing the eyes of hope to walk through this season is like adding the right light and a little perspective to our circumstances. 

No disrespect to the Hymn, “Silent Night,” but the days, weeks and months proceeding the night, that these lyrics herald, were anything but silent: A young woman filled with only faith and a baby, her betrothed husband confused and scared, an overwhelmed innkeeper, fearful shepherd, an angry King, confused wisemen… Where is the joy, the love, the peace? Wait. It is coming. But we may have to extinguish a few artificial lights to find it, and we may just have to look through our wondrous eyes of hope to see it.
Ann Weems sums this thought up best in her poem titled: “Not Celebrate?”

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?
Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

In the cacophony of the world, a Great Light is given. In the chaos of life, Light shines through. Looking through eyes of hope, may our hearts embrace a new celebration. Let your light so shine. Amen

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