I don’t know that I’ve ever had quite so much trouble writing up a liturgy as I’m having with the one for this coming Christmas Eve. Some days, it’s hard enough working on the work of the people – trying to prepare a worthy and meaningful sacrifice of worship for our tender, magnificent God. But trying to celebrate the coming into the world of a divine child, of God’s very human presence in our midst, and to do so in the face of unbelievable horror…let’s just note that I’m blogging instead of liturgizing.
I know – I’ve known for a few days – that I would be using the text of John 1, at the very least, in the Christmas Eve service. And I think, as I watch the candle dance on the table and the winter sunlight stream in the windows, I think that I will never be through wondering at one brief, almost unintelligible line of John’s Gospel. He says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5, NRSV). The NIV notes that “understood” would also be a valid translation of the word here rendered “overcome.” The King James bible reads that the darkness “comprehended it not.”
I think of this young man – this angry young man, whose darkness did not understand the light. I think of the many in the world who carry with them a darkness that can not, does not understand the light. Violence and hatred abound – this is by no means news. In the DRC, in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in Palestine/Israel, in Chicago, in New York City, yes, even in Aurora, CO and Portland, OR, in Newtown, CT, there is a darkness which has not understood the light – and a light that has not understood the darkness.
I do not understand this darkness. This evil. I do not understand this human violence. I cannot excuse, condone, or permit it. No more so at Sandy Hook School than in Kabul or Damascus or Chicago’s South Side. It is wrong. Wrong to murder people. Wrong to murder children. I don’t get it.
But this, then, is the promise of Christmas – the promise of John’s Gospel. A light has shone into that impenetrable darkness…and the darkness, at the same time that it has not understood the light…it has also not overcome the light. The light that is the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst has never been compassed, never been extinguished, never been snuffed from its ultimate shining. Save once…but I’ll talk on that point later.
For today…for today I will get up, and make a cup of cocoa, and keep pounding my head against this liturgy, and praying for a wounded, a traumatized community. And, to the best of my ability, I will keep shining the light of Christ into the darkness that surrounds me.
Blessings to you all, this Advent. Pray for the daughters and sons of Newtown, and to all those who have faced the darkness. Pray for them light.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.