Dec 24 2010

Walk in the Light

Luke 2:8-11
2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Shepherds

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!”

Nativity

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.


Jan 4 2008

New Year-New You

The Rev. Shonda Jones is our Guest Blogger this week. Shonda is an elder in The United Methodist Church and serves at the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. A native of Dallas, she spends her quiet time with the four fish tanks that adorn her Atlanta-area home and her loud time cheering on her beloved Dallas Cowboys. Shonda also serves as Assistant Pastor of Clarkston United Methodist Church in Clarkston, Georgia.

“New Year – New You”

During this time of year, we are all busy making resolutions, starting things anew, and setting goals. Some of the newness and vigor that comes with the New Year, will likely lead to some resolutions being fulfilled; yet some goals will fall by the way side. As I reflect on the start of 2008, I choose not to focus on more resolutions. Rather, I have decided to focus on those things that I know are steadfast. Don’t get me wrong – I have goals that I look forward to tackling with the New Year. I will attend to them and make sure that I maintain some discipline in trying to achieve them. I will try to keep to my resolutions and remain true to the new commitments made. However, if past years are any indication, I should be a little worried at the outcome of some of my New Year’s resolutions. So this year will be a little different. I will focus more on the things that will not fade with time. Those things that are steadfast. The things that last in spite of what we do. Things like God’s steadfast love, grace, and mercy.

I am currently attending the United Methodist Racial/Ethnic Clergywomen’s Consultation in Los Angeles, California. During our opening worship service, Bishop Minerva G. Carcano (the first Hispanic woman elected bishop in The United Methodist Church) spoke on our theme, “Rising from our Common Ground” and referenced Isaiah 43:19. As I listened to the God’s Word — “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?…” I thought how appropriate that the text points us to the brand new thing that God is doing and not so much on what we are doing. I listened, prayed silently, and gleaned new insight as I experienced God’s presence during Communion. I received the words of our celebrants, Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly (the second woman and the first African American woman elected bishop in The United Methodist Church) and Bishop Violet L. Fisher (the first African American woman elected bishop from the Northeastern Jurisdiction). As I sat among other colleagues in ministry as we worshipped together, I nodded my head in the affirmative – Yes, God is doing a new thing among these powerful women of God and among us all!

Will I continue to set new goals and pronounce resolutions with the passing of each New Year? Sure. But I will always remember that though I may waiver, those things that are steadfast – God’s love, grace, and mercy– can gird me up in new ways because God is indeed doing a new thing! Can you not perceive it?

You may be sensing that God is doing a new thing in your life, which may be leading you towards seminary. If you would like to discuss your discernment and vocational options in the Candler context, please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326. Candler is also on www.facebook.com and we invite you to join our facebook group called Candler School of Theology-Emory University.