A sermon preached
Reading Luke 2:1-20
shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
ago this Christmas,
Terry Waite was coming to the end of his 3rd year of solitary imprisonment
in a darkened room in the backstreets of Beirut.
years during which he never felt the wind on his face
nor saw the light of the sun.
Christmas Eve 1990 he kept back
a crumb of bread from his supper and a stub of a candle,
and as the darkness in his shuttered cell deepened into Christmas night,
he took the bread and candle and celebrated his Midnight Mass alone
and watched the frail candlelight flickering in the darkness.
this Christmas Eve we too gather to break bread,
let us thank God for the gift of Christ –
at this as every Christmas coming to so many different people
in so many different situations,
but always as the light in the darkness of our lives.
We remember in our prayers today Norman Kember
and the hostages of our age –
and pray for the light of God’s presence to shine in their lives
and the lives of all in need.
International’s symbol is of course
a candle surrounded by barbed wire.
In so many ways that is a symbol of Christmas in a dark and brutal world –
the light surrounded by the brutality of human sin –
and yet the light shining still in the darkness.
years ago, a New York Times reporter
was assigned to cover the murder of a well-loved school principal.
The murder took place in the reporter's home town, near his parents' home.
The principal had been killed by a student whom he was trying to help.
The community found itself grieving his death.
reporter attended a memorial service in the school gym.
After the service, people gathered on the lawn outside
for a candlelight service.
They were asked to carry their lighted candles home,
carrying sparks of light throughout the community..
reporter said, "I felt silly carrying a candle three blocks home,
cupping my hand to protect the flame.
This, after all, is the sort of gesture
a detached journalist employs as a folksy detail in an article,
but secretly considers to be irredeemably corny or maybe just too intimate.
I felt that way until I saw a candle burning on someone's porch
and two more in the car that drove past,
as I climbed the front stairs to my father's house,
warm wax all over my fingers."
reporter ended the article by saying,
"When I explain to friends from other places what happened in my hometown…,
I tell them about the knife and blood because that is unavoidable.
But I always end up telling them about the candles."
In a few
minutes now we will come forward to the crib surrounded by the candles –
symbolic of Christ’s light – and then kneel to receive bread and wine.
Then we will return and in a few more minutes go out into the dark night.
tonight we meet the light of the world –
we will not take these candles away with us literally –
but let us none the less take the light with us
into the darkness of our town and community.