Pastor's Pen

Darkness — Light

Posted on: Dec 31, 2020

The morning sun is shining brightly as I write. Even though the air remains crisp from the night, the feeling of warmth on my face as I walk the dog brings a brightness to my morning mood.

Such positive images are vital to our well being. They are a remedy to a world of increasing darkness.

For one, our days become short and the nights longer as we approach the longest night of the year. This is a time of seasonal affective disorder for many who experience a form of depression that accompanies the seasonal change.

Another kind of darkness descends on many who are without family members this season. COVID-19 travel restrictions will prohibit countless family gatherings. COVID-19 deaths are altering tens of thousands of families forever.

Our country, from the broadest perspectives to our neighborhoods and families, is also living through a darkness that most of us have never experienced. Extreme ego- and ethno-centrism prevails.

— Too many care only about me, myself, and mine.
— Too many see life as a zero-sum game; if others’ well-being improves, then mine will surely worsen.
— Too many believe God hates the same people they do, and that they are chosen by God to be a privileged people.

As the seasonal darkness descends, and we see all kinds of darkness around us, we Christians observe Advent—the season of reflection and preparation for the Light we are certain will come.

We see signs of that Light every day.

— The generosity of millions whose food bank contributions help feed millions of others who experience food insecurity in these days.
— The dedication of medical professionals, first responders and caregivers of all kinds who serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
— The thoughtfulness of scientific and political leaders who draw us toward a future of greater medical and economic health.

As we reflect and prepare for the Light that is to come, we must also see that the Light is already with us. As we can see signs of the Light every day, God also calls us to be that Light for others each day.

Christians have a particular Light to share with others—a Light that we often do our best to obscure.

Theologian Chris Glaser writes, “As we know from our own Christian tradition, no one can claim the moral high ground better than a self-righteous legalist, traditionalist, or fundamentalist. As an aside, [Walter] Brueggemann also points out that no one can claim the moral high ground better than a self-righteous liberal, progressive, non-literalist . . .. All of us tend to equate God’s views with our own, what Brueggemann calls ‘the cunning little secret of certitude.'”

The antidote to the moral high ground continues to be Jesus’ Great Commandment: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

During Advent 2020, love of neighbor is powerfully important. Because in the midst of the darkness in which so many find themselves, the lack of love for neighbor seems especially prominent this year.

Jesus teaches that our neighbor is anyone who is in need—whatever kind of need that is. The obstacle that prevents most of us from fulfilling Jesus’ expectation is that we can’t let go of how we keep judging one another. Instead of sharing the Light of forgiveness, we continue to live in shadows of our own making. In judging others’ rigidity, we overlook our own.

“In awe of God, we are called to, in a sense, privilege the neighbor to be truly neighborly and faithful to God,” Glaser points out. “We are to consider their needs, their beliefs, their practices above our own needs, beliefs, and practices. . .. That requires forgiveness—forgiving that the other is not all we expected, forgiving mistakes and ignorance and insensitivity, forgiving wrongs and inabilities and limitations. And forgiving ourselves these things as well. We are not perfect people. We are forgiven people.”

So, in preparing to receive the Light of Christ once again, may we remember that the Light is also already here. The Light is always with us. It is always coming to us as well. May we prepare for the Light that is to come by practicing how to share the Light that is already with us.

—Pastor Fogal

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