“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good…”
Darkness – that place and space where visibility is poor; where finding one’s way is difficult. Darkness – that place and space where hope and possibilities seem out of reach. Darkness – that place and space where we – you and I – can be overcome by a sense of powerlessness. And powerlessness can lead us to a place of despair and/or desperation.
It is no secret that a significant part of this past year has been framed by images of darkness. Images and words of hate and polarization have littered our cultural landscape. This need to alienate or villify the other because of disagreements in political views or cultural and racial identities has become an acceptable norm. The threat of nuclear war is on our daily news feed. Acts of violence and terrorism at home and abroad have transformed recreational spaces to memorials of bloodshed. The “me too” movement has given voice to many whose pain has been incubated in darkness for fear of what bringing abuse and harassment to light could or would mean for them.
And then there are the more intimate journeys we carry. Like some of you, I have experienced great loss this past year as we said goodbye to one of my sisters and walked a complicated journey to the death of my mom in December. I have said goodbye to three other dear friends in the past few months. My heart has been in pieces. Yet I am humbly aware that many of you have walked and are walking similar journeys – whether prompted by the death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, insecurity of employment.
The truth for me is that 2017 will be remembered as a year associated with the kind of darkness that tugs at ones soul in a way that makes it difficult to recognize the light, let alone claim it. It was a year that tempts us away from the glimpses of light that peak through the darkest nights of the soul. But then I find myself reluctantly face to face before Epiphany – that day when the hope of God breaks through the darkness over an obscure land in an insignificant place – guiding shepherds, sages, and angels to the Christ child. I find myself face to face with a light of great hope that is “for all people” – that extraordinary story of salvation history and love shared with the most ordinary of people and circumstances. I find myself face-to-face with the truth I claim as part of my faith – that darkness will not overcome the light.
As I look longingly to that flickering – at times- barely visible light – I am able to recognize the light in the acts of courage that have taken place in the midst of the horrors. I am able to recognize the light in the letters and prayers extended me over the past year. As I look to that flickering light I am reminded of the truth that we as a presbytery joined our voices together to celebrate our 300 years by reclaiming our commitment to children, education and restorative justice. I am able to see the heart for the Gospel that you, our churches and ministries embody day after day in an effort to bring healing and hope into the darkness. I am able to celebrate new pastoral leadership in our congregations. I am able to affirm how God continues to raise up new generations of men and women who boldly are saying yes to vocationally serving the church.
As the snow falls today, I find myself grateful for the much-needed reminder that Epiphany offers. Epiphany reminds us of how it is God’s Word – spoken at creation and then birthed in a manger that has always faithfully broken into the darkness defying that darkness with resurrection hope. Above all, Epiphany reminds us that we are invited to see the light and bear the hope of that light – of that Word – into the world.
As we embark on this new year together, may the hope and blessings of our Creator God, the love of our redeemer Christ and the communion and fellowship of our sustainer, the Holy Spirit – be with each and everyone of us. May we look to reclaim and bear that light into the darkness together!