Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas Eve 2016: Light in darkness


It’s Christmas Eve . As always, I am  anxious about how the night will go. As the hour approaches, I say a silent prayer. And cross myself. Leila and Pat have once again done beautiful work decorating the sanctuary, now a stage for the upcoming Noche Flamenca production.
Ready for Christmas
And after months worshipping in our chapel, we are back in our sanctuary. We get closer to  PM and the sanctuary is still empty. Farolitos outside on the steps proclaim welcome.
Farolitos say "welcome"
And as 7 o’clock comes up, the sanctuary fills….

We move through the service, my spirits lift, the congregation lifting me. We sing Carman Moore’s new carols, a full quartet.
The "Sky Singers"
And finish with John Lennon’s Christmas/War is Over…and it’s time for my reflection….

Hear these words:  

Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings

We passed this week, as we always do three days before Christmas  Eve, the longest night of the year. From here on out, the light grows, we say. And a voice replies, if only…

The darkness seems so much darker this year. Just this last week, the attack at the Christmas Village near Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Berlin. A place I have been. In a city where my son and daughter in law and grandson live. My grandson who looks at the world as if its a wonderful surprise gift just for him to unwrap every day. I want  a world for him where you can walk through the markets with the smell of pine and warm mulled wine and music in the air. And no fear..But that is not our world. 

In Turkey, the Russian ambassador is shot dead.
And the  ancient city of Aleppo vanishes in a veil of blood and smoke.  And the world stands by.

And we await with fear and uncertainty in less than a month  the unexpected inauguration of a most unlikely President. 

Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings..
It’ s always about light….the light that shines in the darkness, that the darkness does not overcome….

It didn’t begin with Jesus.  its been there since creation. Sometimes dim, sometimes nearly imperceptible, but always there.  With Abraham and Isaac. With Moses and his freedom march. With the prophets Hosea, Amos, Micah…Isaiah…in the fields, in the streets, in the halls of empire..they lifted their voices.

And tonight with our Jewish friends, we remember the Maccabees…freedom fighters against a most powerful…and attractive..empire…and celebration of a miracle that tells us the light always grows, does not diminish, as a candle is added each day until a menorah full of light bursts into flame…

On December 6th, St.Nicholas Day, our Buddhist friends celebrated Bodhi, the coming of light, the enlightenment of the Buddha. A year ago, I got to participate in that event at Riverside  Church. It was profoundly moving as I watched the  light move from the altar throughout the sanctuary until the whole place glowed.
Even as ours will soon…

And this year on December 12 (or for the Shia the 17th) our Muslim neighbors celebrated id e malad, the birthday of the prophet.

Something in our darkness, no matter who we are,  craves light. 

Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings

Healing.  As Mary Gauthier says, we all could use a little mercy now. Our light comes in a poor stable in a way side town. Occupied then, occupied now. Angels singing to outsiders, to the shepherds. In the by was of red states, Shut down mill towns, and mining towns. Angels voices. 

The one who brings us light comes from there.  From the midst and middle of our darkness. We light these lights as a witness that the light still shines…and will not be doesn’t fix everything, doesn’t cure everything….but it’s the beginning of healing…
This all too human one shows light through love…and when we love, we shine…our imperfections remain….they make us who we are…like doubting Thomas knowing the risen  One first by his wounds, not made perfect by resurrection, but made whole.  Or as a prophet we lost recently Leonard Cohen said, there is a crack in everything…that’s how the light  gets in..

Tonight let that  light in..and take it back out again…out to the streets…for this Christmas, this year…

I was almost shaking when I finished. I looked out. Saw neighbors. People I did not know. Visitors who came seeking.The Christmas tree sellers from Alaska from across the street
Sean, James and Rachel..our tree friends..
…our friends and neighbors for the last month. We shared bread and bathrooms, they shared trees and wreaths. Hung out at our open mic. Were neighbors for a month. My musician Jeremy has brought his wife and new son Elio and we greet them.
Priska, Jeremy and Elio
And Pat and Larry are on the stage with their granddaughter Nyla. Who is playing with the baby Jesus.
Nyla plays with baby Jesus
My friend (and bandmate) Pat, militantly antireligious since his Irish Catholic upbringing, (rightfully so) has come with my good friend (and singing partner) Rabbi Steve. 
Pastor Brashear, Rabbi Steve and Pat

We sing Joy to the World to Jeremy’s rocking gospel piano. I have missed him so much. So glad that they have come back from Switzerland for this night.This is the way it should be. This is Christmas. And if this is my last, no better way to go out. 

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