“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
There is something about darkness that is frightening. When it is dark and our sight is obscured, our minds begin painting pictures to make up the difference. Suddenly what was in daylight the woods around our home becomes a dangerous wilderness. What felt safe and secure becomes a frightening possibility of fearful circumstance. As our days grow shorter, our experience of the darkness takes over more of our day and can overwhelm us. It is in the midst of this space where our vision is robbed that our imagination takes over and gives way to both make-believe and memory.
This time of year calls forward memories for all of us. Some of those memories are filled with laughter and family, colors and light. Some of those memories are filled with tears or pain, fear or sorrow. For many of us, we have memories of both sorts that somehow come forward and swirl together into a string of interconnected emotions that become difficult to disentangle. The memories become a weight we carry with us as we try desperately to focus on the light and the joy we are told we are supposed to feel.
But whoever said a call to remembrance is always a joyful experience? The things we remember most clearly are the heights and the depths. We remember where we were when President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were shot. We remember what we were doing when the challenger exploded and the twin towers came down. We remember what it was like to hear someone say, “I love you” for the first time. We remember the mirth we felt when we heard that family close to us was expecting a child and we remember the fear and anger that bubbled up when that same child was diagnosed with a painful illness. The call to remembrance isn’t a call to a specific emotion – it is a call to honor the experiences that comprise our existence.
The prologue to the Gospel of John, which we heard this evening, tells the story of remembrance. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Like Paul Harvey used to expound in his radio program – We have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. The Word of God, that spoke the earth into being and was proclaimed by the prophets, became flesh in the person of Jesus for whom we wait. That same Word that was and is a light that darkness cannot overcome became a human being who instructed his followers to “do this
of me.” Jesus, for whom we wait, the light in the darkness, was a holder of memory and instructed his people to become holders of memory as well.
When we re-member
those whom we have loved and lost, Christmases past, health that is now illusive, the life we thought we’d be living, our fears and anxieties, – we are putting ourselves back together in a form of honest and active waiting. This active waiting can be painful and exhausting, but it pays homage to all of the different parts that make us who we are. Tonight, we are calling forward the parts of our lives that are vital piece of the puzzle that makes us whole. Who we are today – right this moment – is because of who we have been, what we have experienced, the people who have crossed our paths, and the hope for what is to come. Friends, we cannot dance in the joy of Easter morning without first walking through the painful darkness of Good Friday.
So whatever feelings you bring here tonight – whatever fear you might have of letting those emotions take up space in your being – know that you, all of you, are welcome here. Do not fear the darkness within your own mind, because there is a light that cannot be overcome no matter how dark it gets. Do not shove these wonderful and terrible feelings aside because they are the reminder that you are here, alive and human, right now. God’s Grace is big enough to hold all that you bring here tonight – and more. If you cannot feel that grace and love I encourage you to make that your prayer this night – or just trust me when I tell you, because I know this to be true. God’s Grace and Love are freely flowing through God’s own Holy Spirit, encircling you even as we speak. Allow yourself to feel and know that all of those feelings are acceptable.
Sometimes this Advent journey of waiting and counting down can feel just as perilous as a walk into the depth of the woods in the dark of night. We can’t avoid the emotions that present themselves but we can remember
to look up while we march onward – if we look up we will eventually see the most brilliant stars.