- Rev. Sarina Odden Meyer
Christmas Eve - Jesus, the Light of All People
John 1:1-14, Luke 2:1-20
How exciting to be here tonight celebrating Christmas Eve and Jesus’ birthday. Jesus is God’s greatest gift of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to the world. During Advent we have been lighting our four Advent candles. There are three purple candles, which represent Hope, Peace, and Love. There is one pink candle which represents Joy. During Advent we have been waiting for Jesus’ birth. While we have been waiting we have been keeping watch for signs of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in our own lives and ways that we can be signs of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in the lives of others. Tonight, we celebrate Jesus’ birth, God’s greatest gift of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to the whole world. Tonight we will light the Christ candle. It is the white candle in the middle. We light it from the Advent candles and then blow the Advent candles out: we are no longer waiting; Jesus’ birthday is here.
During Advent, many of you saw that I wore a purple stole to match our purple candles. Tonight I wear a white stole and the Christ candle, which we will light, is also white. The white of the candle represents many aspects of Jesus, but the one that I want to focus on tonight is what we read in John, that Jesus is the light of the world. John 1:4: “Jesus is the light of all people.” John 1:5: “He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” And John 1:9: “Jesus is the true light which enlightens everyone.” This idea that Jesus is the true light is interesting when we think about this in the context of physics (if you can believe it!) and the liturgical colour of the day, which is white.
Normally, when we think of white as a colour, it makes us think of the absence of other colours. It is blank, empty. But, in physics, true white light is actually only possible when ALL of the other colours of the visible spectrum are also present. When we see a rainbow in the sky, it is because true white light has passed through rain drops. The rain drops bend the light which forces the different colours to separate and the result is a rainbow. True white light is actually made of the combination of all of the colours of the rainbow. If we tried to create white light without one of those colours, it would not be white. In the physics of light, the colour white means the presence of ALL of the visible spectrum of light, ALL of the colours of the rainbow.
As I was thinking about this-- that Jesus is the true light of the world, and that white light is what we get when we mix of ALL of the colours of the rainbow-- I realized that this matches the message that the angles give to the shepherds that we read in Luke 2 tonight. The word angel in Greek is angelos, which literally means messenger. The angels are God’s messengers. When they announce the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, it is God’s interpretation of the event of Jesus’ birth. In Luke 2:10, the angel says, “Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people.” Jesus’ birth is good news of great joy for ALL the people. When God became a human as the Son of God, Jesus took on all of humanity-- every aspect and facet of life. No human experience is excluded from God’s plan of redemption. All of human experience is encompassed in Jesus. The good, the bad. The beautiful, the ugly. Healing and pain. Life and death. Jesus took on ALL of it when becoming a human and Jesus makes ALL things new. Through Jesus, God wants to bring Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to every person no matter who they are or where they are from. As John 1:9 says, Jesus is the true light that enlightens all people. In order for Jesus to be that true, white light, ALL the colours of human life must be included.
Often we use colours to describe different aspects of human life and each colour carries different meanings. We see our Advent candles are purple and pink. Purple signifies repentance, self-reflection, and royalty. Pink signifies celebration. In our culture today, pink also signifies breast cancer awareness. The other colours of the rainbow carry meanings as well. In our culture today, red can mean anger or love. Blue can mean sadness or peace. Yellow can mean happiness or cowardice. Each colour will carry a different meaning for each of us. I’m sure that all of you have a different idea of what the colours mean. The white Christ candle contains all the colours, since we know that Jesus came for all and that true white light is a combination of all of the colours of the rainbow.
During this Christmas time, this time of gift-giving, it is helpful to think about what God has given us. How has God brought Hope, Peace, Joy, or Love into our lives this year? The angels said that Jesus’ birth was good news of great joy for all the people. God is still working today in our own lives, through Jesus, to bring good news of great joy into our lives. God is constantly working to bring hope, peace, joy, and love to us in the midst of all of life’s trials and challenges, in the midst of all the colours of human experience. All of us, all of our life experiences are redeemed by Jesus, our true light. How has the light of the world shown in your life this year?
I like to do creative things on Christmas Eve. We are all taking time to come to worship, so I like to take the time in worship to do something creative. We are going to create a message of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love together now. Just as the angels were God’s messengers of good news, so we will be God’s messengers of good news. Each of us will receive a hand of light (there is glitter on the fingers!) and a coloured pencil. I want you to write, or draw, on the palm of the hand a sign of hope, peace, joy, or love that God has given you this year. How has God brought hope into your life? How has God brought peace into you life? Joy? Love? We will write or draw these signs, then we will all come up and attach these hands of light to our angel wings. They will become feathers. All the colours of our lives will join together in these white angel wings, just as all of humanity is joined together by the love of our true light, Jesus Christ. This will be our message of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Just to get your minds thinking about signs of hope, peace, joy, or love, I will tell you what I am writing on my hand of light. I am writing Minecraft on my feather/hand of light. I had shingles this fall and was on health leave for several months. During that time, my husband and children taught me how to play Minecraft. This game was a source of joy in my life when I could literally do nothing and was quite miserable. [Invite elders/ushers to pass out feathers/hands of light and coloured pencils.]