On One Holy Light
For December 25, 2022
Luke 2: 8-12
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Today’s sermon is titled On One Holy Light.
On this Christmas morning we once again visit the scene of the shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night when an angel appeared before them and we hear that “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” We can only imagine what that holy light must have looked like, shining around those shepherds, as the angel announced the birth of the Christ child.
Light is often used as a metaphor for the presence of God. In my opinion, light is the perfect metaphor. Like God, light can not be contained. Like God, light illuminates our darkest places. Like God, light is a challenge to define.
Scientists first began to study light in earnest in the 1600s. Italian physicist Francesco Maria Grimaldi defined light as waves while English physicist, Sir Issac Newton, defined light as being composed of tiny particles. For over 300 years, scientists could not agree about precisely what light is and is not. It was Albert Einstein, in the 1900s, who finally laid the argument to rest, writing that light is made up of particles called photons and those photons behave like waves, so light is both particle and wave.* Light is the perfect metaphor for God. Like light, God is a challenge to define. Like light, God can not be contained. Like light, God illuminates our darkest places and displaces our fear.
We read that the shepherds were “terrified” when they were suddenly surrounded by heavenly light. The first message was “Do not be afraid.” Similar messages appear 365 times in the scriptures. The angel said, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” The shepherds could not have imagined how one tiny baby would change the hearts and minds of humankind. The shepherds could not have imagined that one tiny baby would bring so much light to the world.
Jesus is recorded on multiple occasions as speaking of himself as light. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” In the next chapter, again Jesus says, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” The word used here for “light” is the Greek word φῶς (phōs), and it means
“source of light.”** The translation then becomes Jesus saying, “While I am in the world, I am the source of light.”
Jesus also extends the use of this metaphor to all those around him. Listen to the following verses, also from the book of John, chapter 12: “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” Jesus uses light as a metaphor to give us a glimpse of what we may yet become. Believe, while you have the light, he says, so that you may become “children of light.”
What would it look like if we were to live fully into becoming “children of light”? How would the way we govern ourselves, as individuals, as communities, as nations, be transformed? I think Jesus spent a great deal of time imagining a better and more just world; he called it the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus imagined a world where people loved God most of all, not their possessions, or their wealth, or their power. Jesus imagined a world where people loved one another, cared for one another, and used their power to heal, provide and improve. I, too, can imagine a world like that; can you? For example, I can imagine every single person in this country having health care. I can imagine the surge of gratefulness and relief that would be followed by an upwelling of goodwill and optimism; it would transform our nation in unfathomable ways. I can imagine a world where diversity in all its many beautiful forms is truly celebrated and encouraged, where we could see the light in one another. I can imagine it and imagining is the first step in creating it.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but our teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, was a dreamer, too. He carried the one holy Light of God. Jesus looked boldly into the future and imagined a very different world and I pray that we, as his followers, will be bold in our imaginings and make way for the changes that are overdue. After all, we are children of light. Let’s live like it. So be it. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer: In the stillness of winter, God, we open our hearts to the love and the light that is Christ. In Him, you offer us all that is most precious- all the unseen, the invisible…the sadness that deepens us, the compassion that connects us, the unexpected joy that restores us, the pain that humbles us, and the divine love that knows no bounds. Guide us in our becoming children of light, I pray. Strengthen our voices to speak for those whose voices have been silenced. Fill us with hope so we may keep working for the kind of world that Jesus imagined for us. Fill us with your holy light, I pray, and may it radiate out into the darkest corners, bringing love and justice to all. This I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Benediction: I leave you now with these words from a blessing written by an anonymous author:
May you be filled with the wonder of Mary,
the commitment of Joseph,
the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the light of the Christ child.
On One Holy Light
On One Holy Light
On One Holy Light