Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coming into the Light

Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:8-20

When you came into the church this evening, you left behind the cold and the darkness of the streets, and you entered the warmth and light of this sanctuary. Upon entering you found friends and family gathered, and you shared Christmas Greetings with one another. In doing this, you experienced God’s light shining onto your life.

Then, as the service started, you began singing the songs of the season, you shared in a Christmas prayer, and you heard scriptures read that declared the good news that God is present in our midst. Yes God has come to us in a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. And, again, you felt God’s light shining onto your life. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what has happened to you this day, God’s light has touched your life.

I know that it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. You get tired and maybe a bit cranky. There’s the traffic and the crowds. Then there’s the weather. It’s one thing to dream about a white Christmas, and it’s another to drive in it. Beyond the typical distractions, this year we’ve entered the season with the dark cloud of the economy hanging over us. With all that’s going on, it’s not easy to feel joyous.

The darkness might be pushing in on our lives, but tonight we’ve come to worship the source of light and love. We’ve come to bear witness to the one who brings light into our darkness, and as we do this, we begin to see the cloud lift and the darkness dissipate.

Luke’s version of the Christmas story, tells of angels appearing in the night to shepherds out in their fields. They bring them all the glory of heaven, and with it a message of great joy. For in the little town of Bethlehem, the light has begun to shine.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Yes, in a manger in that little town of Bethlehem, lies the savior, Christ the Lord. Through him the light shines in the darkness, and the world will never be the same.

The Angels’ message echoes one proclaimed centuries earlier by the Prophet Isaiah, who told the people walking in darkness that they would see a great light, and when they saw the light, they would rejoice and give thanks. For on that day, an heir to the throne of David would arise and put an end to war and break the "rod of oppression." Yes, there would be justice and peace when the Prince Peace appeared in their midst.

Although the New Testament doesn’t make use of this passage from Isaiah, down through the centuries the church has looked to it for a word of hope. Indeed, George Friedrich Handel found inspiration in these words as he penned The Messiah. And thus, we sing:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

The shepherds, so Luke tells us, followed the angel’s song to a manger, where a baby lay wrapped in swaddling clothes. They went looking for the one who would bring light into their darkness, and there in that manger they found the Light of the World. Yes, in him there would be found peace on earth and good will to all.

Tonight we have come out of the darkness and into the light to hear these words of hope and peace. We come to give thanks to the Prince of Peace and draw sustenance from his presence as we sing and pray together.

In a few moments we will come to the Lord’s Table, and partake of the emblems that represent to us the body and blood of our savior, the one we call prince of peace. After we take the bread and the cup we will then take candles and encircle the sanctuary. We will send around the sanctuary the light that begins at the table and then ends at the table. In these lights we will find the symbol of God’s presence. When the sanctuary darkens, the light from these candles will bear witness to this truth – God is with us, even in our darkest hour. When we leave this place, we will carry with us this message into the darkness of the night.

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
December 24, 2008
Christmas Eve

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