Classes at Candler School of Theology recently ended for the semester. Finals are over, grades are in, and students and faculty have emptied the hallways for now. We have worshiped together during this Advent season as a community with expectant hearts.
It is always interesting to read the story of the birth of Christ, especially in Luke’s account. This year I am struck by images of light and the request from the angel that the shepherds not be afraid. Equally attention-grabbing is the setting of the story – shepherds living and working in the fields, a census to further support Rome’s war, and God coming into this world as a helpless newborn who was laid in a feeding trough. This was not at first glance a splendid night.
Imagine an ordinary day. Darkness abounds amid our humanity. Life is hard. And all of a sudden there is so much light that instead of happiness to be have light in our lives, we are scared out of our minds. This was the kind of night in which God became incarnate.
And so it is the case today. Christmas is not always a glowing moment of joy and peace for so many. Rather, it is a time of profound loneliness and sadness. There appears to be nothing but darkness – broken relationships, unemployment, underemployment, aloneness, uncertainty about our calling, and the like. But yet, this time it is about the light that is shone all around us – even amid the perceived darkness (The darkness is showered with brilliance as the people who wait in darkness see a great light – Isa 9:2). We get a glimmer of it, but yet we may be afraid to walk in that light and to respond to the angel’s beckoning, “do not be afraid!”
One of my favorite hymns is Walk in the light. I recall one of my very first Christmas Eve’s as a new Christian. It was at a candlelight service that a friend insisted I attend. It was there that the song spoke to me and encouraged me to pay attention to the gift of light, no matter how big or small. It was that night that I allowed myself to be privy to the Glory that shone all around me and in that moment I was no longer afraid. The lyrics are simply:
Walk in the light,beautiful light, come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh shine all around us by day and by night, Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;
This Christmas, let us embrace the light as it comes. It may come in the face of another, or the kindness of a stranger, or even the words of a hymn that penetrates our hearts in new ways. No matter how it comes, step into it. Receive it. Walk in it. For the gift that is greater than all others is the coming of the One who is the Light now and forever – Jesus Christ.
Let us pray-
God of glory, your splendor shines from a manger in Bethlehem, where the Light of the world is humbly born into the darkness of human night. Open our eyes to Christ’s presence in the shadows of our world, so that we, like him, may become beacons of your justice, and defenders of all for whom there is no room. Amen.Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.
-The Rev. Shonda Jones
Rev. Jones is Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services at Candler. She is involved in recruitment, admissions, financial aid, and student life. In addition, Rev. Jones provides vocational guidance, financial advisement, and crisis management for students. She is an ordained elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. Her areas of interest include the HIV/AIDS pandemic, anti-racism, womanist theology, ethics, culture, and studies in church and society.
All images copyright John August Swanson. They can be viewed at Candler on the second floor outside of room 252.