January 15, 2017
(from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
As I sit here on an early January winter morn I am reminded of the importance of the season of returning light. For me, there has always been something comforting about the long winter darkness in Alaska. It lies on our world like a blanket under which all things rest for a season. Yet as the dark wears on I begin to yearn for the light. For many of us, the promise of increasing light is what makes enduring winter possible.
One day soon a brief moment will arrive when our longing will be touched by a taste of what we anticipate. I remember one such moment long ago. We were living in Ketchikan at that time. On early winter morning we were driving into town. The sky was clear and the waters of Tongass Narrows were calm. Naturally we stopped at the lookout to enjoy the pale winter sunlight and quiet waters. Standing in the brisk air something happened. It was as if a load had been lifted from our shoulders. Winter had a long way to go, yet we could feel that spring and new light was on the way.
Many of us have known those who inexplicably carry this sense of the returning light with them. It seems that no matter how cold or dark it may be, you know they live with one foot in summer. I have never been able to tell if this assurance of what is promised is communicated by their eyes, the way they walk, or simply through their presence. What is most obvious is the sense of life that those around them experience. Standing in the same room with an individual like this lifts the spirits and communicates a sense that all will be well. Who wouldn’t want to be around such a person on a cold January morning?
Alaskans are not the only ones who long for a little light in their lives. For many of us the light we long for is not only physical, but also spiritual. Experiencing times when our lives seem bleak and wintry is not uncommon. One reason these seasons of our lives can be overpowering is because they do not follow a set calendar. We cannot predict when they will arrive, nor when they will depart. They are out of our control.
There are those among us who have experienced Jesus as a light bearer in these times of darkness. John the Evangelist recorded Jesus as having said “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) These words were both theological and experiential. For this morning, let’s set examining their meaning aside and focus instead on the experience His words point to. It is easy to imagine that the power that moved the original disciples to drop everything and follow Jesus was more than His spoken words. It must have been something they sensed as they stood in his presence. I believe it must have been like standing in the summer’s sunlight. That light warms to the depths and stimulates new life. It was this life giving quality that Jesus’ disciples knew. From the beginning of the Christian experience, walking with the light has been a consistent experience. Attempting to explain all of this came much later.
My prayer for all of us is that we spend the rest of our lives standing in the light of Christ. May this be true in all the seasons of our lives. May this light fill us to overflowing so that it reaches out to others and they begin to sense the coming of new light to their hearts.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 215)