Sermon for the first Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2013
Music marks the passing of the generations. My grandparents were born in 1914. And I remember my grandfather using this ancient contraption, and you would put this giant black plasticy circle on it. The thing would spin around and music would come out. At least that’s how I would have described a record player when I was a kid. And my grandfather loved Perry Como. And Glen Miller. And Bing Crosby. But I preferred to put my army men on the record player and watch them spin around than listen to that music.
My father was born in 1949. A baby boomer. He also listened to music on record players. And I remember that we had stacks of them in one of our closets when I was a kid. Chicago. The Moody Blues. Blood, Sweat, & Tears. The Rolling Stones. That was the music of my childhood.
Now, my sister was a lot cooler than I was. She skipped pretty quickly over her cassette player and got a CD player. Whoa. That was hip. She was jamming to Ace of Bass, Paula Abdul, and Boyz II Men.
Music marks the passing of the ages. By the time I came of age and was aware of music, there was something called Napster. Where you could download music from the internet. And now I download all of my music from iTunes. And it never even makes it to a CD. It goes straight onto my phone which will then play to wireless speakers. My grandfather never saw that one coming.
And I listen to Beyonce, and Jay-Z, and Celine Dion. Just kidding, I don’t. I actually don’t know who those people are. Right now I’m really into the Black Keys. You have got to check them out. They are this great rock band from Ohio and they have this awesome song called, “Everlasting Light.” It starts like this:
“Let me be your everlasting light/the sun when there is none/I’m a shepherd for you/and I’ll guide you through/let me be your everlasting light.”
Music marks the passing of the ages. But not everything passes with the rolling times. The light is everlasting. As the Gospel of John puts it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him life was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
This light that shines in the darkness is Jesus. When John describes the birth of Jesus, he doesn’t go into shepherds and angels and mangers and wise men. John cuts to the point. This birth, this Christmas joy, is about the light. The everlasting light that has come into this world to shepherd and guide us.
The song from the Black Keys goes on: “Let me be your everlasting light/I’ll hold and never scold/In me you can confide/when no one’s by your side/let me be your everlasting light.”
Here’s the thing about darkness. It is everywhere. Once during seminary, my father and I visited some caves in the Shenandoah Valley. And deep in the bowels of the cave, they shut off all the lights. Darkness swallowed me. I could not see my hand in front of my face. My eyes were useless. Like Jonah in the whale, darkness swallowed me. It was as if no one was by my side.
And it seems that darkness is swallowing this earth, with all its sin and malevolence. As the passing ages roll, the people are enshrouded in deep gloom, darkness covers the earth. When no one is by our side, it is in Jesus that we can confide; the light, the everlasting light comes to us at Christmas. That light gives life to all people who receive the holy name of Jesus. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not overcome it. Like a lone flashlight in the bowels of a darkened cave, the glory of Jesus shines into your hearts to give grace upon grace. Or as the Black Keys put it: “oh baby, can’t you see/it’s shining just for you/loneliness is over/dark days are through.”
The everlasting light is not something we can hoard. Because the instant we clasp our hands on the light, we make a shadow. And the light goes out. The only way for the light to shine in the darkness is to hold it up. The only way for the glory of Jesus to shine in the world, is for you to become a mirror. I challenge each of you to imagine yourself wearing a giant mirror around your neck. And the glory of God, full of grace and truth, has shined upon you. And your mirror reflects the everlasting light into all the dark places of the world. Because you cannot keep the light for yourselves.
That’s what John the Baptist was all about. John the Baptist was a man sent from God. He could not keep the light to himself, because he knew that he was not the light. Yet he came to testify to the true light, which enlightens everyone.
Now, I have an exercise for all of you. To burn off a few of those extra Christmas calories. I’m just kidding, it’s a spiritual exercise. This is a way for you to practice reflecting the glory of the Lord Jesus back into the world, a way for you to be like John the Baptist. This is a short little prayer that you can say over and over again. I’ll give you what I say. “My name is Jimmy. I am a child of God. I am not the light. God sent me to share the light.”
So let’s try it out, I know, we’re Episcopalians and this is really a stretch for us, but you can do it. You’ll repeat after me, and of course, insert your own name. “My name is Jimmy. __________ I am a child of God. _________ I am not the light. _________ God sent me to share the light.__________”
When you have the option of being rude, or being kind, say this prayer. When you are tempted to hoard God’s love for yourself, say this prayer. When you are thinking about how you can serve the Church, say this prayer. When it seems that you are enveloped by darkness and a deep gloom enshrouds your life, say this prayer. “My name is Jimmy. __________ I am a child of God. _________ I am not the light. _________ God sent me to share the light.__________”
The last verse from the Black Keys goes like this: “Let me be your everlasting light/a train goin’ ‘way from pain/love is the coal/that makes this train roll/let me be your everlasting light.”
During this holy season of Christmas, I pray that the Lord Jesus is your everlasting light, the light of love. I pray that he shines upon you, to give you grace upon grace. I pray that the Lord Jesus shines into the darkness that you see, and that the darkness does not overcome the light. And I pray that you reflect that light back into the world.
“My name is Jimmy. __________ I am a child of God. _________ I am not the light. _________ God sent me to share the light.__________”