|A favorite Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” written by Phillips Brooks, a priest of The Episcopal Church in the 19th century, contains the line “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light…” (The Hymnal 1982, #78)
Those words capture the reality of our world as well as the promise of Christmas. They are as true today as they were 2000 years ago. So much darkness inhabits our world and the lives of the people of the world: the desperation of hunger and war, the darkness of oppression and prejudice, violence, of our inhumanity toward one another. The darkness of racism, the brokenness of the tragic events in Ferguson, terrorism in our world, torture. The dark list is long indeed.
Our witness as Christians must recognize and face into the darkness of our world. That is our mission because that was the Christ Child’s mission – to bring light into the world’s darkness; and into that darkness to bring God’s healing, divine reconciliation, liberation, and sacrificial service. In the face of the world’s brokenness these are lights that continue to shine. This is the light that John speaks of in the prologue to his Gospel, “This the true light coming into the world and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. (John 1:5)
As followers of the Child of Bethlehem, I call us once again to dedicate ourselves to God’s mission amid our world’s darkness. To strengthen ourselves and our spirits to pursue that mission, I remind us of the four foundational and non-negotiable components of the Christian life and call each of us to rededicate ourselves in these ways:
1. A life of prayer
2. A commitment to social justice
3. The ability to live in community
4. A tender heart
(Ronald Rolsheiser, “The Shattered Lantern”)
The light comes into the world through our love of Jesus and our commitment to follow in his footsteps of sacrificial service on behalf of others, especially the poor and oppressed. The light comes into the world by our efforts and dedication to live in peace with all people. The light comes into the dark streets by our resolve to keep our hearts tender towards the hurts and heartache of the world, just as Jesus’ heart remains tender towards you and me and all people.
In the words of the old spiritual, “This little Gospel light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…”
Amen. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.