The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…
The Gospel of Luke tells us that the shepherds filled with wonder at the sight of the baby, told everyone what they had heard from the angels. Luke tells us that Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
I think of the 12 days of Christmas as Mary’s time – pondering time. All of the rush and hoopla, the pageants, the gifts, and those times of wondering are over. Now it’s time to ponder. On the third day of Christmas the church commemorates the life of St. John the Evangelist. John tells the story of the birth of Jesus in a very different way.
“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 was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
I think that these are indeed the words of a ponderer. I think John thought long and hard about what the stable story means as told by Luke and Matthew and then re-framed the story into cosmic language. John lived in a community that thought a lot about who this Jesus was. They lived in a world that seemed pretty dark to them, but this new light continued to make sense of their world in a way they had never know it before.
On the fourth day of Christmas, the church commemorates one of those dark hours in the story of Jesus’ birth. King Herod gets word from the Magi that a new light is shining to tell that a new king has been born. Herod discovered from the scribes that the prophets say that the new king will be born in Bethlehem. He tells the Magi to go find this new king and come and report back to him. An angel tells them to go home another way. Herod is furious as well as paranoid, and has all of the male children under the age of two killed. It seemed as though darkness reigned, but the Holy Family escapes to Egypt.
The daily news is often dark. There are our continuing issues with violence, economic turmoil, political in-fighting, hunger, natural catastrophe, and human made catastrophes. So often the darkness feels like it will overcome us. The Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod, stirs up in the darkness that slaughters our children on our city street and sometimes even in our schools, and those innocent victims around the world caught by drones and suicide bombers. John tells us that there is the Light and Life that is not overcome. This creative power – the Word – became human and lived among us. And we are called to bring that Light into the darkness that surrounds us.
Where does your pondering lead you? Do you ponder it at all? Or are we like the shepherds who race off to see the thing that has come to pass, and go off and tell of the wonder. Have you ever noticed that we never hear of the shepherds again? I sometimes think of them running from one wonder to another. They are like the stores who are already stocking up and decorating for the next holiday to celebrate. Who in the story do you identify with? Wondering shepherds or pondering Mary? How would you tell the story of how the Light overcomes the darkness that you see and feel and experience in the world?
Hope to see you Sunday!
Associate for Worship and Adult Formation