Would you take a look at the lit candle on our Advent wreath? It doesn’t throw too much light does it? Can we think of it as the first light of a new dawn? Just a glimmer of the full light that is to come with dawn, a dawn that will swallow up the darkness of night.
In his gospel John he tells us that Jesus is the true light that enlightens the world. Jesus is light that shines in the darkness and darkness will never overcome his light.
We do live in dark times. This is a dark time of the year. The days are shorter; the sun goes down too soon. We live in darkness of violence. Think of the shattered lives of the man and women murdered in Paris. Think too of the men, women and children in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and so many other countries who have lost their lives to religious fanatics. Sunnis killing Shiites, Shiites killing Sunnis, Moslems killing Christians. Dark deeds by people of darkness.
Think of the darkness of bigotry and xenophobia that surfaced after the bombings in Paris. Men, women and children living in refugee camps for years waiting for a chance to come to a new country and start a new life are subtlety and not so subtly identified with crazy suicide bombers. People with their own agenda would have us believe that the hordes of refugees crossing into Europe will be showing up on our shores in the near future and ask how many terrorists will be among them? Who is watching out for our security? Buying into this propaganda is buying into the darkness of racism and bigotry.
It seems that at this time of year one or another big company announces a planned massive lay off plunging the lives of workers and their families into darkness while the CEO’s of these companies make salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The darkness of injustice and unfairness.
What did you do on Black Friday? Did you let yourself get suckered into a shopping spree, buying things you neither need nor can afford? Black Friday is another manifestation of the consumerism that is consuming the limited resources of Earth for the benefit of a few at the cost to many. Black Friday lures us away from the challenge of our times – live simply that others may simply live.
Recent disclosures at the Vatican remind us that our church has to face its own dark times. Luckily we have Pope Francis at the helm and he will not turn back from the reforms we need to bring the light of Christ into the bureaucracy of our church.
Christ is the light who came into the world and the darkness did not overcome him. The darkness of Good Friday was shattered by the brilliance of Easter Sunday.
That first candle on our Advent wreath is a sign of our faith and hope. It is the first light of the yearly new dawn that comes with the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. Our faith in his victory over sin and death give us the strength and motivation not to be overcome, overwhelmed by the darkness of world events, by the darkness of our own personal struggles.
Jesus challenges us to be a light to the world by the way we live our lives. Our light is to expose the darkness of bigotry and prejudice, our light is to expose the darkness of that mind set to shop til we drop. Our light is to expose the darkness of indifference to the environmental crises of our time. Our light is to shatter the darkness of the rampant social injustices that are part and parcel of our economic systems. Our light is to shine in the darkness of religious indifference and show people the way back to God and the things of God.
In the darkness of our times may each one of us be blessed to hear and follow Christ’s challenge to each one of us – so let your light shine before others that they may see and glorify your Father in heaven.