Earlier tonite we had over a hundred people here for our Family Service, and one of the features of it is that the kids of our congregation and our afterschool program, the Doves Nest, help us tell the nativity story in real life. I found costumes and even animals, this year including sheep and cow hand puppets. This year as we were planning for the Family Service and our acting out of the story of the birth of Jesus, one of our youth insisted he did not want a role in any way. Which was kind of understandable because he is a high school student surrounded by little kids. I pondered for a moment as he and his family were there-what to do for someone who doesn’t feel part of this if he doesn’t want to be a shepherd, or a wise man or really anything. But yet he came to practice. And then, Shazam!
“You can be the star!” I exclaimed excitedly, which of course got the most confused, skeptical, even irritated look. After all he had just said he did NOT want a role. “The star,” I said again, gesturing and holding my hands above my head to demonstrate. “We need someone to hold the star over the holy family.” This received a crinkly but growing and even grateful smile. And after a moment kind of a look of pride that he could as the tallest, and seemingly awkwardest one have a place in the story after all.
At home, my daughter and I set about trying to make a star, and after a lot of cutting and glue and glitter and hope, turned some discarded cardboard into a mighty fine but not audacious star. And I imagined him standing there in this unexpected joy that had replaced his expectation of disappointment.
That star led me to the focus I want to share tonight-The star is the Light.
Not just literally because stars, glowing orbs fiery gas shine in our night sky. More to the point- in the face of all our striving to make Christmas perfect to overcome our disappointments. In our longing to be stars for a just a moment-
into this world of ours, comes the real star-The Light. The star of this night and our whole lives is the Word- Jesus Christ who brings light to the world.
As we look around we can see just how much we all long for the light. In today’s paper on the front page were two stories of this side by side. The one on the left is about a man who has been working since mid-October to string 60,000 lights and synchronized music. Competing in a national TV contest to win $50,000. And he won! The quote in the paper from his wife is that since he was never athletic she was glad he could finally say he won something. Wow.
The second story was of a woman whose mental health and financial troubles led to her electricity being turned off in October, and until members of her church found out she had no light, no heat, nothing. One person is immersing himself in lights and another wondering if she really would just be in the darkness. And there it is.
I wonder if our profusion of lights and inflatables and the escalation of getting more, faster, suggests we long for the chance to overcome he dark places we know all too well. Then imagine that first night when the star was the light. There was no display of fine things. It was not beautiful. Or even light. And perhaps Mary like poor women still in the world, gave birth in the dark, perhaps without any light at all. Lonely and scared just hoping it would be OK. Yet-this is how and where God chose to enter. Not to encourage us to ignore the dark, to meet us in it and help us walk into the light.
This night we came here to step out of dark places and into the light. Each with our own stories, to Christmas- knowing we all strive to create those star moments. Perhaps ones where we hope the light will hide our lives so we can be our best selves, if just for a moment. Maybe it’s the first Christmas without a loved one, or another week without a job. Or Mom’s dementia is worse, or the medication isn’t working. Or you walk with a secret or wonder where everyone has gone.
The poet Wendell Berry says that “it gets darker and darker and darker-
and then Jesus comes.”
Jesus has come. Somehow the light comes. It is quiet but wondrous news that God comes to remind us again that we don’t have to be stars. We don’t have to be stars to receive Christ.
We the people who walk in darkness are shown the light. It’s not overwhelming, or domineering. It’s also not artificial or temporary. It just IS. Light for us.
It’s what I think moves us to tears when we sing Silent Night in the candlelight. That flickering yet hopeful moment. It almost seems fragile. Yet we realize how powerful God is in the stillness with the light and the birth of a baby.
We silence the noise, as God shows us the holy and reminds us that we all really do have a place after all. In the light.
To grasp that who we are for real is exactly who God seeks out to love and to save. And that is wondrous news! It’s not about us and how we Christmas.
God’s life dwelling among us invites us to see the real star and to point to that light. God in Christ with us-not only in this night but in all the days to come. We don’t know how, but it is so.
I close with words of blessing from Jan Richardson:
I cannot tell you how the light comes.
What I know is that it is more ancient than imagining.
That it travels across an astounding expanse to reach us.
That it loves searching out
What is hidden, What is lost, What is forgotten Or in peril or in pain.
That it has a fondness for the body
For finding its way toward the flesh
For tracing the edges of form
For shining forth through the eye, the hand, the heart.
I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you
Though it may seem long ages in coming
Or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.
And so may we this (night) turn toward it.
May we lift our faces to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies To follow the arc it makes.
May we open
And open more
And open still
To the blessed light that comes
Sisters and brothers-Rejoice in the light! And may the light of Christ born for us shine in our hearts and in our lives! Amen