I’m sensitive to the lack of light that we have in the northern hemisphere this time of year. I get a bit anxious and sad even in the midst of joyful reunions and holiday festivities. My spirit—even my body—hungers for the return of the light. I use a light box (my “happy light”) starting in the fall to help supplement my biological need for light.
This season of the church year invites us to consider light and the ways that we yearn for its presence in our world. We read scriptures, sing songs, and pray prayers celebrating and calling for the Light. We decorate with candles and Christmas lights. We marvel at the way that even a single flame can illuminate the darkness.
One of my favorite scriptures during this time of year is the beginning of John’s Gospel—Jesus as “the light of all people” (1:4) and the affirmation that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5).
A favorite pastor of mine, Rev. Judi Hoffman, preached sometime every Advent on John 1:6-8. It was always a favorite Sunday of mine because her sermon reminded me that in this season of lengthening darkness, we are sent by God to be witnesses to the light of God. We ourselves are not the light, but we testify to the light.
In pastor Judi’s sermon on John 1, she tells the stories of people who are sent by God to be witnesses to the light, to be reflections of God’s light and life and love in the world. They are not famous people or modern saints. They are ordinary people like you or like me. But we experience God’s presence through them. “There was a woman named Pat who sat with lonely people.” “There was a boy named Migdiel who reached out to a friend who was being bullied.”
They bring hope to places of despair, companionship to the lonely, light to those who sit in darkness. They testify to the Light of the World—through words, touches, and simple acts of hope.
Christ, the Light, is coming to us in the birth of the baby Jesus. We hunger for this Light in the midst of the darkness of our world. God sends us out as witnesses to hope and love and light. “There was a person sent from God, whose name was [the name here]. . . . They were not the light but came to testify to the light.”
Watch for the light. Testify to the light. Be the light that brings hope and love to another person.
God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and worship life and dean of The Upper Room Chapel. Her latest release from Upper Room Books is Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent.
Our resolve must be different. My prayer is that we have finally reached a tipping point. My hope is that when the protests fade and the marches slow that our will as a church to truly eradicate the scourge of racism won’t dissipate but grows even stronger.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.