Christmas Eve 2018 Sermon by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar
Scripture: John 1:1-7
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
NOR did the darkness disappear.
The sanctuary has looked delightful all month, but tonight there is a special glow.
Christmas Eve worship late at night has a special lure to it –
The light in the darkness feels mystical in a way that everyday surround lighting misses.
Candles and Christmas trees look so magical precisely because they are surrounded by darkness.
But Christmas lights in broad daylight don’t have that mystical glow that comes at night.
In the Celtic Tradition, before Christianity came, the people would light up trees on the solstice,
Celebrated back then on December 25.
The early Celts did so not to banish the darkness, but to dress it up.
Darkness was not seen as evil, but a space for putting down roots and creative growth.
In the dark earth, seeds of life were nourished.
Light would come and spark life – giving the seed energy to grow and bud.
But the importance of the life-giving light did not obliterate the nurture of the darkness.
In our modern day, scientists are beginning to worry that we actually have too much light –
Between street lights, screens and around the clock production,
We have so much light that we can’t find a dark space to view the meteor showers!
All the light is blocking out creativity and mystery, qualities nurtured in darkness.
As we welcome the light this Christmas Eve, let us not banish the darkness;
Let us allow the light to shine in the darkness,
In a yin-yang balance –
Balanced together in a holy harmonic tension.
Allowing that light in the darkness balance can be a challenge.
The ancient Greeks taught us a dualistic way of thinking that continues to plague our world.
Dualistic thinking holds that it is all or nothing, black or white, right or wrong, light or dark.
Dualistic thinking is not only unrealistic, but it is down-right harmful to our spirits and relationships.
Thinking that one is either with me or against me,
Neglects the reality that often we will agree on some things and disagree on others;
“either with me or against me” thinking hinders our ability to collaborate and create something profoundly more beautiful than we could do separately.
Assuming a Democrat believes whole-heartedly every piece of the Dem. Platform
Or a Republican supports every Republican politician,
Neglects the reality that the issues of our time are far more nuanced than either party would have us believe,
Such “all or nothing” thinking stalls our ability to make holistic and functional laws,
And keeps us from nurturing insightful relationships.
Believing a person either loves me or hates me,
Neglects the reality that we all make mistakes and have multiple characteristics.
Such black and white thinking blocks our ability to forgive and grow in relationship.
Thinking I either need to be happy or sad,
Ignores the wide range of emotions that show us the depths of love.
Dualistic thinking destroys relationships before they can even blossom and harms our souls.
At Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ twists up dualistic thinking
and challenges us to witness an integrated world.
John 1:10 professes that Jesus was in the world and the world came into being through him.
“In the world” means he was a human creature walking around in the world.
“world came into being through him” means he was the Divine Creator from which the world emerged.
Jesus was both in the world and formed the world.
Jesus fully human and fully divine.
The early church fought great battles over who Jesus was:
God in a human costume?
A human with a strong Divine connection?
Ultimately, the church agreed that Jesus was fully Divine and fully human.
Not either/or, not half and half, but fully BOTH.
Christmas is a celebration of this BOTH.
Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation:
the divine becoming human in Jesus.
Jesus fully human and fully divine.
The truth of Christmas is God came to dwell with us. Word made flesh.
The Divine world is not out there, detached, but
In here, with us.
The Divine in the material.
The sacred and the secular blend together and cannot be easily separated.
Our bodies teach us about the holy.
Nature shows us divine truths.
The sacred and the secular;
the mystical and the material are woven together.
Dualistic ways of thinking are shattered,
The walls that divide come down.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it, nor did the darkness disappear.
There was a great debate this advent between two church members: Louise and Sara.
They have different ways of doing advent calendars.
Louise starts on day 1 and moves to day 25. [show on calendar]
Sara starts on the 25th and counts down. [show on calendar]
A couple weeks ago they discovered their difference and attempted to explain their way to the other.
(1) Laughter ensued, especially when Howard, Sara’s husband, joined in and Christmas characters where moving back and forth.
(2) but then they listened to one another, heard what each had to say.
They looked at each other, waited for the other to finish, soaked it in.
Neither was convinced the other was “right”…so,
(3) they set about to learn more about how to do advent calendars.
They asked friends (some of you might have been asked)
They did online research and discovered that both ways had many adherents.
Last week they conferenced once again about the issue, again with laughter and listening.
Neither is going to change how they do advent calendars,
But they both learned a great deal about the spirituality and practice of the other.
They will hold both ways in holy harmonic tension.
One does not need to overcome the other,
The light could shine through both.
Indeed, the light has shone through both in the beautiful way in which they disagreed.
Our call at Christmas is to allow the light to shine through us.
In our Gospel this evening we hear about John the Baptist –
“he himself was not the light, but he came to testify to light.”
John testified to the light – witnessed to the light, the light who is Jesus.
Like John, we are not to be Jesus Christ; we are not God,
But we are called to witness to the light of Christ.
We witness to the light, not dualistically by banishing darkness.
We cannot banish darkness anyway –
We cannot eliminate grief or sadness or sorrow.
That is God’s work.
We can bear witness to the light in the darkness.
We can acknowledge the holistic world God created;
A world where the sacred and secular cannot be easily divided;
A world where the Divine Word is in the world and the world comes from the Divine.
A world that is not all or nothing, black or white, but a mystical weaving of differences.
We can bear witness to the light in the darkness, as Louise and Sara unknowingly modeled:
We can Laugh, Listen and Learn.
Laugh – rejoice in praise and gratitude for what is, as our next hymn says, “burst out in song”
Louise and Sara debated their advent calendar methods in laughter and with smiles –
For at the end of the day they knew they were both just people trying to love God.
Listen – listen to others, one another, and listen to the scriptures and what tradition has to say. Listen and absorb; in listening we learn to see and understand another beautiful dimension of God.
Learn – grow, maybe even change. While Louise and Sara are going to do the advent calendars the same way as they did before, they have each learned a great deal – not just about advent calendars, but about ways to manage children and ways to wait and ways to understand God.
How you bear witness to the light shining in the darkness will vary:
You might count your advent up or down;
You might raise children with love, help with the food bank, become socially active, care for God’s creation by conserving water or electricity, get yourself sober or clean, or
as our next hymn suggests, you might visit prisoners, or aid the poor, or love the brokenhearted, or comfort those who mourn.
However you bear witness to the light shining in the darkness,
may you do so not in a dualistic, my way or the highway, way,
But in a holistic way.
May you bear witness to the light shining in the darkness by
Laughing, listening, and learning.
Arise, your light – the light of Christ – has come!
Show forth the glory of God.
Fear not, God’s power will make us strong. Amen.
Information about the celts and sermon inspiration from this podcast: