Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sermon for Dec 26, 2010, Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. George Miller
Matthew 2:1-12
“Gifts of Light”
Dec 26, 2010

What is it about light? The flicker of a flame, the glow from a TV screen, the sense of security a child gets when their parents turn on the nightlight?

Why, for the past few days, have people driven through Sebring Village to look at the lights that adorn the homes? What is it about light?

A few Saturdays ago I came home from a day spent shopping in Tampa. Christmas gifts were for the most part finished and my sermon was done.

As my cat napped comfortably in the chair, I shut off almost all of the lights in the house and turned on the Christmas tree lights.

With a glass of ice water in hand, I went to the sun room, sat down on the couch, and just watched the tree. It was so peaceful…

I thought how nice it was to have something to look at. Then I realized something- I was looking at light. Then I realized something else: how much of what draws our attention is, in essence, light.

After all, what is a TV or computer screen but glowing light? While camping, people will sit quietly content looking at a camp fire.

And what is a Christmas tree but light, light, and more light? It seems as if we are designed to seek the comfort of light.

For us, as Christians, Jesus Christ is the ultimate light; a source of luminosity that guides us towards hope, peace, truth and love.

Now yesterday was Christmas. Gifts have been opened; today many of those gifts will be returned.

Food has been eaten; today many people are dealing with indigestion. Families have visited; today many are glad to see them go.

Two nights ago we gathered for our Christmas Eve service. We heard from Luke 2 in which the theme was about hope. I asked "How can we, as a family of faith, share hope with others?"

Today, we’ll talk about how the Light of Christ has entered into our lives and how we can try not to let it go.

This morning’s scripture is from Matthew, which takes place after Jesus is born. Wise men come from the east enquiring about him.

One of the accepted translations calls them astrologers, which makes sense, since we are told that they were following a star.

Yet it wasn’t just any star, it was a sign and a source of light that they could follow; light that leads them to where Jesus is.

These astrologers enter into the home, pay their respects and offer up their gifts. Then, after experiencing the True Light of the World, they leave to go home another way.

So I ask again, what is it about light?

First, light illuminates our reality. It chases away the darkness, revealing that which is hidden. Light allows new life to grow and old life to be restored.

Light is also a sign of great things. Not only did light of a star lead the magi to where Jesus lay, it was by the light of a dawning day that Mary came to the empty tomb.

At Christmas it is so easy to be drawn to and enraptured by the Light: a baby in a manger, angels that sing from on high, gifts freely given and smiles easily shared.

Like the flicker of a TV screen and the crackling of a camp fire, our eyes, ears and minds are attracted to what’s before us.

On Sunday, songs, scripture and sermons focus us on the Light and ways in which we can follow. The acolyte lights the candles, reminding us of why we have gathered and who it is we adore.

But what happens the rest of the week, when we leave this holy place and this holy time?

Do we remain drawn to the Light and stay focused on the ways of Christ? Or do we find ourselves easily submerged with the rest of the world in darkness?

One way we can keep the light burning is to continue doing what we talked about Friday night: to share and to be the hope that has entered into our lives. After all, hope is another form of light that breaks into our dark places and points us to something greater.

The light that burns from Jesus Christ is far brighter then any sun or celestial being or man-made bulb. When that light is allowed to connect with others, there is no limit to how bright our world can become.

I’d like to give you an example of how light can be shared with others.
In a house in Ohio (or was it Michigan, or perhaps it was New York or Florida), on a Christmas tree aglow with lights, sits an envelope, just as it has for many, many years.

It’s a small, white envelope stuck among the branches; no name nor inscription. It was placed there by a woman who wanted to bypass getting her husband the usual gifts.

You see, her husband, Mike, had grown tired of the consumer driven hustle and bustle of Christmas, saying that it left him feeling drained.

So his wife reached for something special that would bring an element of light into the world.

A few weeks before their son had competed in a wrestling match against an inner-city league. The youngsters, dressed in ragged sneakers, had no uniforms, no headgears, no anything that said they were a viable team. So of course, they lost every weight class.

Mike was upset. The light from his eyes faded as he shook his head, saying “I wish that just one of them could have won. They have so much potential but losing like this can take the heart right out of them.”

That’s when the idea came to her. She went to a sporting goods store and purchased an assortment of shoes and wrestling headgear and sent them to the inner-city team.

On Christmas Eve, amidst the glow of the holiday light, she placed an envelope on the tree telling Mike what she had done and that this was her gift to him.

Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. So each year she followed the tradition- sending a group of children with developmental disabilities to a hockey camp, a check to a pair of brothers whose home had burnt down, and on and on.

That envelope became their ray of light each Christmas. It was the last thing opened; the children would put down their toys to watch as Dad took down the envelope from the tree.

Then one year, Mike was diagnosed with and died from cancer. This threw the family into a state of darkness. Christmas rolled around, but they didn’t want to do anything.

Grieving, the mother put up the tree. Alone, she placed an envelope on its branch. It felt like the darkest holiday of her life…

…but that morning, when she woke up, there were three more envelopes on the tree. Each of the children had put up an envelope in honor of their dad.

Though Mike is gone, his family has not forgotten. They hope that the tradition will grow with grand and great-grandchildren; that they too will stand around the tree, with light in their eyes, watching as the envelope is taken down.

In conclusion, that giving spirit, that spirit of hope in the midst of hopelessness, is but one way in which that light that can always be with us.

Just as the magi found ways to follow the light, may we also find ways to seek out the light that is Christ, and to follow wherever that light may lead.

May that light speak hope, may that light speak peace, may that light speak love and may that light speak joy.

Blessings be to God, to the Spirit, and to Jesus Christ, the true light of the holiday season.

Amen and amen.

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