A Light Shines in the Darkness - Homily for Christmas Eve 2016
We all have our favorite Christmas shows. It might be the Christmas Carol or the Grinch – two of my favorites – or maybe White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. As a preacher, I have a Christmas Eve tradition of drawing an image or two from these cultural icons as part of my Christmas Eve meditation. My family always asks whether it will be Scrooge, the Grinch, or Charlie Brown. This year, as you’‘ll see, I decided to go with a different Christmas story.
This year I’m looking to the reading from Isaiah for guidance, and the opening line of the passage caught my eye: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." So, can you guess which Christmas show features an image of light shining in the darkness? Let me give you a hint. There’s a red nose involved!
The Christmas story offers us a message of redemption. In the birth of a child, the realm of God breaks into history, revealing a new hope for creation. In the gospel of Luke, angels gather in the heavens and proclaim the glory of God revealed in the birth of this child. They announce that peace will come to earth. This is also the vision we find revealed in our reading from Isaiah 9.
You may think I’m stretching things a bit to draw on the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but it is a story of redemption, and it’s a story of light shining in the darkness. In case you don’t know the story, Rudolph had a very shiny nose, and none of the other reindeer would let Rudolph play in their reindeer games. In the TV show, poor Rudolph meets up with an elf, who is also a bit of an outsider. Instead of making toys, Hermey wants to be a dentist. That’s not what elves do! Since Rudolph and Hermey feel excluded from their community, they head out on an adventure that gets them into trouble. In the end they land on the "Island of Misfit Toys." Because they feel like misfits, they fit in with this new community.
Eventually Santa finds Rudolph and Hermey, and discovers that Rudolph has a special gift. He has a nose that shines in the darkness, and on that foggy Christmas Eve, Santa could use help from a reindeer like Rudolph. Yes, Rudolph gets to lead Santa’s reindeer as Santa’s sleigh crosses the globe. There’s more good news. Not only is Rudolph redeemed, but so is Hermey. He gets to be a dentist. Oh, and all the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys find new homes. It does seem that the story of Rudolph has a spiritual message.
Isaiah also tells a story of redemption and a story of light shining in the darkness. The people in Isaiah’s song face a dilemma. An empire wants to conquer them. It’s a time of great fear and anxiety. Yes, it’s a time of darkness. But, Isaiah brings good news. A royal child is to be born. Upon his shoulders will rest God’s authority. He will bring to the land endless peace. Isaiah declares that this royal child will carry the names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, titles that many of us know from Handel’s Messiah.
Each of these titles speaks of the presence of God revealed in a child. You wouldn’t expect a child to be the savior of a people; but you wouldn’t think that a red-nosed reindeer would save Santa’s delivery program either!
We come here this afternoon to share in the light of Christ. We come seeking to know the light that will shine into our own corners of darkness, revealing to us God’s redemptive love. So, "a stable lamp is lighted whose glow will wake the sky; the stars shall bend their voices, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, and straw like gold shall shine; a barn shall harbor heaven, a stall become a shrine." Let us come to the Table set by the one born in this stable, whose light shines into our world, bringing hope of peace on earth and good will to all!
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
December 24, 2016