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Light – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

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Christmas is here!  The prophet Isaiah proclaims it with ringing words of joy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  Those who live in a land of deep darkness – on them has light shined.”(Isa 9:2)  Tonight we celebrate with great joy the birth of Jesus, the coming of a great light to a land of deep darkness.

I love the lights of Christmas.  I love Christmas tree lights, the lights I saw a few weeks ago along Fifth Avenue and at Rockefeller Center.  I even love – and this is a new one for me – the Christmas lights in people’s front yards and all over their houses – illuminated Father Christmases, glowing reindeer, pulsating stars and flashing greeting signs.  My all time favorite is one a friend sent me on the internet.  It’s amazing.  A house and yard in Ohio are covered with 45,000 lights and operated by 176 computer channels.  The display is synchronized to a rock version of Amazing Grace.  It’s so popular there are huge traffic jams in the area, and there is a crew of three policemen to manage the traffic!

What is it about light which we find so compelling?  It is the very first thing God created in Genesis: Out of the darkness, “Let there be light.”  And for St. John it is the most potent image for the Incarnation:  The Word was made flesh.  “In him was life and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”(Jn 1:4-5)

And tonight we come to celebrate Christmas in this beautiful church filled with candlelight.  I love worshipping with candles – candles at Advent, Christmas, Baptisms, Easter.  In my last parish I used loads of candles and the vestry joked that I must have shares in a candle company!

Light is so compelling, so attractive.  Light stands above all for hope.  Light and hope are linked.  We live, as Isaiah put it, in a land of deep darkness.  At this time of the year, in the northern hemisphere, the deep darkness can even affect us biologically.  Many people suffer from Seasonally Affective Disorder – or SAD.

But there is a spiritual form of SAD.  Amidst the darkness is a loss of hope: the economic crisis, the terrible disparities between rich and poor – highlighted by the Occupy movement – violence and war throughout the globe, insecurity about our jobs and homes.  In a land of deep darkness we long for light; we long for hope.

“There were shepherds, living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.”(LK 2:8)

Few lives were darker and more hopeless than those of 1st century shepherds in Palestine.  People made fun of them – thought they were stupid, dirty.  The religiously orthodox despised them because they could not keep the detailed ceremonial laws.  If they came down into town from the fields, people would avoid them.  Life was hard for them.  They would spend whole nights huddled together on bleak hillsides, against the often intense cold.  We can imagine those shepherds in the middle of the night, in the cold, dark fields below Bethlehem.

But suddenly – the intense darkness was shattered by a blazing light.  An angel from God appeared to those shepherds, “and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”(Lk 2:9)  No wonder they were terrified because the glory of God is no less than the blazing light of God’s presence and power – there on that dark hillside, God’s very presence.

“Don’t be afraid,” says the angel.  “I bring you good news of a great joy.  For to you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”(Lk 10-11)  And they went with haste to see this child.  And there, in the manger, they saw the glory of God, the blazing light of God’s presence and power, in the child Jesus.  “We have seen his glory – glory as of the only Son of the Father.”(Jn 1:14)  And the shepherds returned to the field – but they had been changed.  As they glorified and praised God they realized that something extraordinary had happened to them.

First, they had seen the glory of the Lord – the blazing light of God’s presence and power, when the angel appeared to them.  Then, they had seen the glory of the Lord in the child Jesus.  But now, something even more amazing had happened.  As they returned to the darkness of the fields, they somehow carried the glory of the Lord, the blazing light of God’s presence and power within them.  In some extraordinary way through their encounter with Jesus, Jesus had been born to them or in them, as the angel promised.  What had happened to them is what Jesus expressed in a prayer to his Father in John’s Gospel: “The glory that you have given me, I have given them.”(Jn 17:22)

This church, on this holy night is filled with the glory of the Lord – the blazing light of God’s presence and power.  It’s not in the candles, or the lamps, or the beautiful architecture.  God’s glory is in you.  Jesus was born into this world of darkness to give to each one of us the gift of God’s blazing glory.  God’s glory is in you.

How does God’s glory manifest itself in your life right now?  For Jesus, God’s glory manifested itself in a deep passion for truth; a burning desire for justice and an immense yearning for peace; a profound compassion for the outcast, the sick, the lost, the suffering and oppressed.  Above all, God’s glory blazed out from him in his self giving love, shown most perfectly on the Cross.  How might God’s glory blaze out from your life?

In a little while we shall each light and hold a candle.  As you hold your candle and look at the burning light, pray a prayer – perhaps a risky or even dangerous one.  Ask Jesus to be born in your heart anew.  Ask God for a new experience of God’s glory – that your heart may be set on fire with love for God and for God’s world.

Ask, this holy Christmas night that like the shepherds, you may know the blazing light of God’s presence and power in your life, and that you may become a burning and a shining light in the world.

To God’s praise and glory.

Amen.

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17 Comments

  1. Carin Delfs on December 29, 2015 at 14:12

    Thanks to all the brothers who worked on the posts throughout Advent 2015. May you all enjoy a blessed Christmas Season and a happy healthy New Year. Carin

  2. Christina McKerrow on December 25, 2015 at 12:25

    Christmas Blessings to everyone:
    I looked at the creche scene in the Cathedral this morning. It is very simple, very beautiful, but my thoughts turned to Mary; the very young woman who gave birth to her son in such a place 2,000 years ago – whether it was a stable, or a cave. Joseph and the animals were with her when Jesus was born, and the shepherds came soon afterwards, we are told. But, where was her family. Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not have been the only Jews in Bethlehem for the census. For her, I weep. Christina

  3. Tinka Dawson on December 25, 2015 at 12:10

    A blessed Christmas to all of you and a thank you for all your comments.

  4. Michael Anderson on December 25, 2015 at 09:50

    Well said! “God’s glory is in you.” It’s in all of us – especially when we remember to see it in ourselves and others. All others. Thank you for reminding me to look.

  5. Pamela Thomson on December 25, 2015 at 08:44

    Many thanks for lifting me up each day. God bless you. Merry Christmas.

  6. Mike Domingue on December 25, 2015 at 07:03

    Thank you for sharing your words….
    Merry Christmas

  7. Marta E on December 25, 2015 at 06:46

    Winter days, no matter the warm temperatures this year, bring more acutely into awareness contrasts of darkness and light. I like the darkness because it seems a place of contemplation, of a quiet place to look at my inner life, and to rest and to breathe. But then, seeing small fragments of light brings into contrast their brightness: Walking through the woods with car lights going places in the darkness; Walking towards the house from the barn towards warmth, brightness, family, hospitality and safety; seeing the candle-light spread at the end of the Christmas Eve service throughout the congregation in the church, sharing the joy of Christ’s birth. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. . . .

  8. Ruth West on December 17, 2014 at 20:32

    Br. Geoffrey, I so enjoyed this sermon. How you have given us wonderful references to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. My electrical power went off for a short time one night recently. It was pitch dark. I couldn’t remember where I had put my flashlight. How important is light!
    Thanks for this good message.

  9. Neil McCormack on December 16, 2014 at 21:40

    My dear Brothers at S.S.J.E. I posted a little memorial for our beloved Brother and Bishop Tom Shaw on FB via the Trappist Monks via Youtube. . What a Shepherd and Friend. Always with us each Christmas Morning as we gathered around Brewer’s Fountain on Boston Common. I hold Brother Tom and All of you in my heart this Christmas. Please hold me in yours. brother Neil +

  10. Barbara Frye on December 16, 2014 at 13:52

    thank you for bringing this light to me. I have been celebrating Advent by reading and reflecting on these sermons, and I have gained much from them. I wish they were available year round. Maybe they are, but I am new to these.

  11. Betty Conley on December 16, 2014 at 11:21

    Your morning readings are so helpful and inspiring. I have long intended to write a note of thanks and today’s readings were so helpful to me that, belatedly, I am sending this thank you. Because I have difficulty attending church regularly, they are doubly helpful and I am so grateful to be able to receive them. I look forward to them each morning
    and they are a great blessing to me and to so many others, I am certain. Wishing you peace, joy and love at this season.

  12. Anna Lange-Soto on December 16, 2014 at 08:54

    Dear friends, Thank you for your words, and especially for publishing them also in Spanish. It’s joy to share them. May God continue to bless you and us all in your ministry.

  13. Kathleen Sides on December 16, 2014 at 08:08

    I thoroughly enjoy the daily homilies/meditations that you provide. It is a special way to begin my day and I can refer back to the reading/thoughts as I travel through my day to day activities.
    Kathleen Sides

  14. larry e shade on December 27, 2013 at 12:54

    Inspirational

  15. Morgan T. Ridington on December 27, 2013 at 07:36

    Though delivered in a measured way, the brother’s message peels back the typically overlooked side-story of the shepherds’ encounter at the incarnation to reveal a powerful impact in their lives that emanates from the heart of God. I was so blessed to learn more of what Gods glory looks like in a life so affected, and to imagine what mine might look like if I were to permit it to radiate God’s light and light to those around me. Thank you for thus meditation and challenge!

  16. jane on December 27, 2013 at 07:26

    Blessings to all the Brothers on this the feast of St. John.
    I give thanks for you and all the ways you live the Word.

  17. LeAnn Frobom on December 27, 2013 at 05:33

    Thank you for this inspiring and illuminating post!

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