Advent 2: Lighten Up! – Martin Stewart

20171013_122721John 8:12

Jesus spoke…saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

In this, our southern hemisphere season of light, the darkness doesn’t have as much room to put its pressure on the light.

In the hearts of those who follow Jesus, the darkness has no room at all!  ‘Never’ is a strong word.  No room for alternatives.

However, when we examine ourselves, we find that there is a gap between God’s ‘never’ and us.  God says ‘never’, we say ‘maybe’.

It is too simplistic to sit quietly and mull over the list of things we did wrong this last week as we make our prayer of confession.  The wrongs in the world are inevitably more complex than what we can think up in the moment.  Unwittingly we participate in and benefit from systems that cause others harm. Things are tricky – the cellophane we wrap Christmas gifts in does not break down, the plastics so many things are wrapped in destroy the environment, the presents we share might have been made where labour is cheap and possibly exploited, the gifts we give and receive will look like a king’s ransom to many people in the world.

The darkness makes its way among us,
inside and outside our guarded compounds,
an often-silent but ever-present attendee,
no stranger at all, no stranger at all.

Our response to this revelation might be to wander off with our ‘tails between our legs’ as the rich young ruler did after his conversation with Jesus.  But Jesus calls us to follow him the ‘light of the world’ and not hide our lights under a bushel.  The invitation is based on who he is not what we might be.  The call is to follow, not to cower or slink off.

We lift up our heads and in the name of the One who is light and life, and commit ourselves to his ways.

Option: play this youtube powerpoint-like clip with words of Neil Young singing ‘Light a Candle’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6VuJblFgTg

Instead of cursing in the darkness,
Light a candle for where were going,
There’s something ahead, worth fighting for,

When the light of time is on us, you will see our moment come,
And the living sole inside will carry on,
It’s a chance to give new meaning to every move we make,
In the cavern, in the cave, where we’ve come from

When the light of dawn is on us,
We will see what we can be,
And the ancient ones will sleep the music sleep?

In the hallways of the ages, on the road to history,
What we do now will always be with us.
It’s a chance to give new meaning to every move we make,
In the caverns in the caves where we’ve gone wrong

Instead of cursing in the darkness,
Light a candle for where were going,
There’s something ahead, worth looking for,
When the light of time is on us,
We will see our moment come,
And the living sole inside will carry on,

Light a candle in the darkness,
So that others might see it,
Light a candle in the darkness, when you go,
Light a candle in the darkness so others might see ahead,
Light a candle in the darkness when you go.

Background to the theme:

Advent in New Zealand is celebrated in summer – the season of light.

The days are at their longest, the night has to find its way in whatever gaps are left.  Summertime is also holiday time for many people thus there is a horizon through December of lighter days, less pressure, family get-togethers, and time and space to relax.

But there is a lot to get through until that space arrives, thus Advent in New Zealand is fraught with busyness, work deadlines, and pressure to get everything done, including all of the Christmas and holiday arrangements.

For most, the weeks that lead up to Christmas can have an element of being burdensome.
To what degree do we end up walking towards Christmas too heavily?
Can we make something of this season of light and more intentionally let the light in?
Is there also an invitation to the church to relax a little, to enjoy this time that reminds us of why we do what we do?

The light has come.  It has come already!  We are pointing to what the world has already been graced with.  God is with us!
It really is time to lighten up and join in with what God is doing!

Thus the theme, Lighten Up! 

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