We are in that season where it feels like more hours of darkness in the day than we have of light. Throw in a little cloudy weather and we really feel the darkness all around us literally and figuratively. And yet, this is a season that fights that darkness with Christmas lights strung around our houses, trees on the inside and the out, even on some of our sweaters and necklaces! We are longing for light in this season of darkness and some of us will look anywhere to find it. One of the themes of Advent is Jesus is the light breaking into our surrounding darkness. We read it in the Old Testament prophesies and Psalms implying what Jesus’ birth will bring:
Restore us, God!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved! – Psalm 80:3 CEB
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned. -Isiah 9:2 CEB
The sun will no longer be your light by day,
nor will the moon shine for illumination by night.
The Lord will be your everlasting light;
your God will be your glory. -Isiaah 60:19 CEB
We read it in the birth narratives found in the Gospels:
Zechariah says: “Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death” -Luke 1:78-79 CEB
Simeon says: “You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.” -Luke 2:31-32- CEB
The Wise Men: “…the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. “-Matthew 2:9-11 CEB
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.- John 1:5 NRSV
We sing about it in our Advent and Christmas songs:
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see the lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.
(Angels from the Realm of Glory)
Shepherds in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant Light:
And of course:
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
The question is, how do we not only enjoy the light Jesus brings into our own lives but how can we help reflect some of that bright Jesus light towards others? Our Lord knows our world needs a little reflection.
I hope those beyond the Boone UMC community can find a way to be light for someone or some group around you. I am pleased to offer an opportunity for all of those who will be worshipping at Boone UMC for Christmas Eve or this Sunday. Most of us still remember the crazy amount of rain that Hurricane Florence brought to our North Carolina Coast. But most of us have moved on, especially up here in the mountains. Our Christmas Eve offering is going to be given to Swansboro United Methodist Church in the NC coastal town of Swansboro.
Let me share with you how we connected and what their need is. While I was serving Sharon UMC in Charlotte (now SouthPark Church!) there was a chaplain there who came and worshipped at our church. She ended up moving to the coast a few years ago. My phone rang this past October and she asked if we could help in any way. Swansboro UMC had been doing the typical Methodist response by serving that devastated community after Hurricane Florence had done its sigfnicant damage. They provided emergency supplies, food and water to those in need as well as worked to cut trees down and provide tarps on damaged roofs. What rooms they had that were undamaged in their church they opened up to the community to use. The damage done to this small town of 3200 is going to require a long season of recovery.
In November I received a letter from the their pastor, Rev. Scott Dodson. He shared with me that while they have continued to respond to the needs of their community, their own church received difficult news when their own damage was assessed. They had considerable flood damage and they have $448,000 worth of damage that insurance will not cover. $448,000!!!
Considering most of their members experienced their own damage to personal property and many folks have been displaced either temporarily or permanently, the challenge of recovery is amplified.
And this is our opportunity to be light. When Pastor Scott and Chaplain Tammy asked for help I realized our Christmas Eve offering was a great opportunity that while we are celebrating the joy and generosity of this season in our own lives and those we love that we could also simultaneously remember a community struggling against the darkness of recovery from historic damage from Hurricane Florence. A sister church who continues to fulfill the mission to love God and love neighbor even when they need a little love themselves. Could we send a message of prayer and love from across the state? By the way, our youth group has already stepped by raising funds at their Christmas party last week to donate!
I hope you will plan to give generously to this need. As you consider all that you have spent on Christmas as a family this year, can offering aid to Swansboro UMC be a way to counter balance our at times excessive Christmas spending? Could this be a tangible way to be light shining in Jesus’ name into a little bit of the darkness that pushes in?
May all of us find ways to be light this Christmas season shining brightly just as Jesus has done for us. May we remember that our generosity can be the gift that changes a life or brings hope when hope has been trampled on. May we never get so self focused that we fail to lend a hand to a brother or sister in need. May you think about the Swansboro community and the members of the church and want to help out as if they were our own neighbor. Can you imagine if it was our church how it would feel to have an unknown sister church from afar respond with generous gifts? That sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?