Christmas Light: Go and search diligently
Many years ago, I met Virginia, an elderly woman in our parish. She had lived her life with a vision disability. Virginia lived with Priscilla, a widow and long time friend. The two had teamed up for years to make peanut butter sandwiches for people in poverty. With their combined efforts, they worked in many areas for the church. With their combined voices, they spoke out against many injustices against people in poverty. The two needed each other as they both became feeble.
Virginia told me stories about how they depended on each other in their old age. Priscilla drove the car because Virginia never had a license because of her disability. However, Priscilla’s vision declined, as did her ability to drive. Virginia told me that when they were in the car and drove up to an intersection, she would get out her binoculars from her handbag to see if one of them could read the street sign. They were bound and determined to not let aging get in their way to going to church or the supermarket. I still cannot believe that they always made it to their destination safely in the old car with a pair of binoculars to guide them.
I still laugh to myself as I think about the story of the binoculars and the street signs. Their journeys were definitely guided by grace and sheer determination. Virginia and Priscilla have both died now and I am confident that their journey is complete in full vision of God’s Light. However, it would not surprise me if Virginia still carries her binoculars in her purse.
In this Christmas season, the liturgical gospels compel us to search diligently for the Child Jesus. Our search goes beyond our human skill to find love and purpose in our lives. The search comes from our human poverty because we do not have the full eyesight to see for ourselves, or the complete knowledge of where to go on our own. We need love and faith to guide us. We need a new vision of heaven and earth.
This journey theme begins on Christmas Night with Joseph and Mary making their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The journey itself becomes the destination, the message of where Christ is born. There was no security or warmth outside the inn. In all of the uncertainty, an angel appears to shepherds. They were people of poverty who work diligently even in the nighttime. These words of the angel still penetrate our fear, “Do not be afraid.”
For the Christmas Mass at Dawn, Luke’s gospel tells us that these local workers went in haste to find the child with Mary and Joseph. They left the sheep untended to search diligently for the child. The shepherds risked everything, were completely amazed and found God within them. They returned to the place of their work glorifying God. This message from an angel was so compelling that they journeyed into the unknown darkness to find this great Light, a simple child lying in a manger.
In the gospel for The Epiphany of the Lord, Herod sent the wandering magi to search diligently for the child. They were led by a great, shining star to illumine the way. They cast off fear to be led by the nighttime-marker of where Jesus was born. When they found him, they bowed down to pay homage with precious gifts.
In this holy season of new birth, these scriptures help us find our way in the dark. These scriptures become our binoculars to view our paths along the way, to find a new faith in the truth of God-with-us. We are called to find peace on our journey without clinging to fear, anxiety or even the past. God is leading us and the journey itself is the destination.
Within all of our worshipping communities, we must risk everything to help others search for God. We must remain open for the poor among us to show us the way. We must believe that people who search for sobriety or a new path out of depression will be the people who reveal truth about our lives. We all may read the street signs a bit more clearly when we begin to rely on one another to show us the way. When we think we have the path memorized or we think we can go it alone, an angel comes to us in the dark and shows us a path of great freedom and hope.
In this Christmas season, the elderly will give us sheer determination to find the path to Christ. Our children will help us stand in the dark in sheer wonder. Those living with illness will open a new path for us so that we can rely on healing being born in our midst. The unbeliever might very well show how to leave everything and follow the light of a star to the place where the child is wrapped in swaddling clothes. We are all searching to be set free from the fear we cling to, to come to our final destination even with binoculars in hand.