Posted by: mmreflections | December 13, 2013

May Our Lights Shine! December 2013

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4)

There appears to be a growing tendency for more people to decorate their homes and public areas with more lights and decorations than usual during the season of Advent this year. When I go out for an evening walk in our neighborhood these days I find myself looking at the lights as a child filled with awe and wonder. What is it about these lights that so fascinates us? In the midst of the chaos and darkness that seems to have come over the world and so many nations these days, the lights of Christmas seem so much more inviting and meaningful. Could it be that we have created artificial lights to make up for the light of Christ in each of us which can no longer be seen?

Jesus tells his followers very clearly, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Perhaps we have either forgotten how important light is or we have just taken it for granted. How do we feel when the power goes out and we are obliged to sit in darkness? The first thing we look for are the candles or a flashlight because we are uncomfortable in the darkness. There are many who are in a spiritual darkness right now and are searching for the light. These may be family members, spouses, significant others, parents or children, friends, neighbors, countries or fellow parishioners who sit beside us in church. Does our light shine for them?

It would be good for us to take this moment in Advent to reflect on the importance of light. Let us go back to the beginning and take another look at the Story of Creation. The first aspect of God’s creation is light. Nothing can survive without light. Then God is described as having continued with the creation of all the things that are needed to sustain life. He prepares the earth, creates light and darkness, moon and stars, plants, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and all the animals. God sees his creation and is pleased. God saw how good it was. He then said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) Realizing that it is not good for man to be alone, he creates a woman from the rib of the man. He crowns all of his creation with the gift of love. As we continue to reflect on the many stories in the Old Testament we realize how difficult it was for mankind to learn how to love. We saw how our first parents, who had everything they needed to be happy, were seduced by the serpent (powers of darkness). Wars, tribal conflicts, greed, power struggles and hatred unfolded and impeded the growth of this gift of love. God realizes something must be done to help his children to love each other as he loves them. He sends prophets and teachers but nothing seems to work. He has another plan that he promises would unfold. He would bring into the world a new light that no one would be able to extinguish. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

During this season of Advent we prepare to celebrate that coming. Jesus comes into the world but is not recognized. We see only a tiny baby born in a cave, a child born of ordinary parents. A great light appears in the sky at the time and only the wise men knew what that light meant. We quickly hear of how the powers of darkness try to extinguish this light. The threatened king, having heard the news from the wise men, goes so far as to slaughter all the infant boys of about the same age as Jesus in order snuff out the true light of Jesus. His parents nurture this new life and watch him grow in wisdom before God and man. When the right moment came, Jesus reveals himself to the world. After his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him). And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17) Then Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. There he is tempted to do his Father’s work in ways quite different from the unconditional love his Father intended him to make known to the world.

Light, Life and Love seem to be the pattern that continues to be reflected in the lives of all of us. Recently there has been an increase in the number of newborn babies being baptized in our parish church. As I behold these little ones squirming and crying during the celebration of their baptism, I see them as new lights coming into the world. I ask myself, “What will these children be?” As the Rites of Initiation are coming to a close, the godparents are presented with a lighted candle to hold on behalf of their godchild while hearing the words. “Take this lighted candle and strive throughout your entire lifetime to shine brightly with the light of faith and good works so that when the Lord comes, you may go forth in radiance to meet him.” These new lights are being entrusted to their parents and godparents to be loved, nurtured, protected, and sustained in life until the day when they are old enough to decide how they will live their life in a way that will make known God’s love to the world. They need to be reminded to be on their guard because the powers of darkness will do all they can to destroy this light and love.

As we stand in awe and wonder, enjoying the lights proclaiming the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, let us reflect on our own personal journeys over the many years of our lives. We also came into this world, created out of nothing by a loving God. We were new lights come into the world. As a child I remember hearing the adults around us saying that a new star appears in the sky at the birth of each child coming into the world. The parents who gave us life were most ordinary. There did not seem to be anything special about us as far as the world was concerned. Our parents nurtured us, loved us as best they could, helped us to grow and did all they could to sustain this life entrusted to them by the Creator. The day came when we were baptized and our godparents and parents were given the lighted candle to be reminded to hold that new light in their hands until their child set off on his/her own. The day came when we were called to do our part to make God’s love known to the world by letting our life shine brightly with the light of faith and good works so that when the Lord comes, we may go forth in radiance to meet him. Most of us can recall the many times the powers of darkness attempted to destroy the light and love of Christ in us.

During this season of Advent let us ask ourselves humbly and sincerely some questions about the light of our life. Does our light shine brightly so that others see our good works and our acts of love? Do they give glory to God for having sent us into this world? Do we truly rejoice because Jesus came into this world to make his Father’s unconditional love known to us that we might make this same unconditional love known to those who are closest to us as well as to the stranger in our midst? May our lights shine during this Advent Season and for the remaining years of our life!

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 8:16)

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