A More Light Congregation

Bethany Presbyterian Church


I just have a short message tonight.  In so many ways, the message of Christmas has already been spoken tonight, in our scripture choices that have been so beautifully read, and in the words and sounds of the beautiful music that has been presented. There is nothing I can say that will tell the story with words any more beautiful.  I have to say that after hearing myself play O Come, O Come Emmanuel 6,000 times (it seemed!) in the blue Christmas service posted on Facebook Monday night, I am so glad we are not singing that tonight!

When I was a kid we were lucky enough to have enough music in schools to put on a Christmas program where every classroom sang one or two songs.  My favorite, in 5th grade, was Little Drummer Boy.  My grown up psychological self would say that I loved it because the little boy who didn't think he had a good enough gift was able to bring what he had and it was enough.  Imagine my surprise when I read the story in the Bible and could not find word one about a boy or a drum!  There were no holiday lights decorating the manger either.  No candy canes.  No luminaries, no decorated trees, no small groups of people going house to house singing, probably no snow, no large happy gatherings of families and friends eating obnoxious amounts of food.  None of that was in the Bible story.  Christian churches with advent wreaths singing songs weren't in the Bible story either.

That doesn't mean that any of our human western Christmas traditions are of any less value than the picture of the little drummer boy in my head.

The advantage we have when we celebrate as modern creatures is the ability to use our imagination to remember the scripture and song and stories that go along with this time of year as a way of highlighting and deepening our understanding and our faith in the promises of this season.  The luminaries remind us of being on a path, lit by light, seeing a star and following that light.  The little drummer boy even reminds us of gifts we would like to bring to God as we realize that there is no such thing as not good enough.  The trees we decorate are representative of the time of year of solstice because that time of year is when the light comes.  I'm not sure about candy canes.  

Bethany has had five new babies this year – Leslie is a step-grandmother for the first time, Jorie is a grandmother for the first time, Orrin Deland and Paul Delander are great grandpa and granddads for the first time, Beverly is a great grandmother, and Pam and Fred are grandparents for the second time.  When we welcome Carrie?, Theo, Brian, Lucy and Avery, we welcome Christ all over again.  

Christ came as a baby just like our new babies this year.  Just like we did once upon a time.  Christ came as one of us, and became like none of us, but for all of us.  The light and hope and promises fulfilled that Christ is for us is like light that shines into everything dark and bleak.  Whoever lives in a land of great darkness right now, has reason to hope for light to come.  Because it already has.  The birth of that babe so long ago is born again tonight, linking us once again to that ancient time.

I leave you with this poem from Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace.


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 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 day

turn ourselves 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.

—Jan Richardson

from “Circle of Grace"

There Will Be Light

Reverend Debra McGuire

December 24, 2020