Monday, January 3, 2011


Sermon from December 24, 2010
(Christmas Eve – Year A)
John 1: 1-14
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas

Last Monday, I became aware that a lunar eclipse was going to occur that night.
From news reports and from facebook updates that I read, I discovered that the lunar eclipse would be fully visible in Waco sometime after 1:30 in the morning.
So I decided that setting my alarm clock to wake up and see this eclipse was just not a very good option.

However, last Monday night, our dog woke up, scratching at our bedroom door, wanting to go out to the bathroom.
On a usual night, getting out of bed to take the dog out is not a task that I relish.
However, on Monday night, as I heard our dog scratching to get out, I looked at the clock beside the bed and the time read 2:15.
I suddenly thought.
The eclipse is happening!
So I sprang out of bed, opened the back sliding door, and let the dog run out.
I then walked out into the backyard to search the sky for the moon.
And as I looked up into the heavens, I saw that the light of the moon was no longer a brilliant white.
The moon was a disc, illuminated in a mysterious orange glow.

As I was standing in the backyard after 2:15 in the morning, I then heard the front door of our house open.
A shadow then began to approach me, the shadow of our 19-year old son, Scott, who was obviously just now arriving home from a night of partying.
Scott came up next to my side, and he turned his eyes to the heavens.

I turned and questioned him:
“Scott, what are you doing out so late?”
To which he deadpans:
“Looking at the eclipse with you.”

I tell you what, that boy of mine is learning something at that school up in Lubbock!

My college-aged son and I then stared up at the moon.
The light of the moon had been eclipsed by the shadow of the earth.
Yet there is really no such thing as a total eclipse.
Because in a solar eclipse of the sun, as the shadow of the earth passes between the sun and the moon, the very edges of the sun peek through in a blazing corona of light.
In a lunar eclipse of the moon, as the shadow of the earth blocks out the light of the moon, the light at the edges of the earth, the orange lights of thousands of sunrises and sunsets on earth, cast an orange glow onto the moon.
You see, there is no such thing as a total eclipse, a total darkness in the heavens,
Because the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.

In the good news that is proclaimed in the Gospel of John,
The Christmas event is not described in terms of a baby in a manger or of sheep in the stable.
In the Gospel of John, the Christmas event is described theologically, explaining why the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Jesus was born to bring life.
Jesus was born to be the light that shines in the darkness.
Jesus was born to show us that there is never, ever a total eclipse of God’s love for us.
For the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.

On this holy night, the darkness in the country of Iraq is very real.
St. George’s Anglican Church is the only Anglican church in Iraq.
In this last year, St. George’s has been bombed 4 times by insurgents, the explosions blowing all the windows out of the church.
The priest at St. George’s is named the Rev. Andrew White.
Andrew White travels to work at the church with bodyguards.
Church members receive death threats.
Yet even in the midst of darkness and persecution, Andrew White proclaims tonight that his parishioners will stand firm in love, despite the horrific escalation of sectarian violence that is aimed at driving Christians out of Iraq.
The priest at St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad is a witness to us on this Christmas Eve night that the light of love will not be eclipsed by the darkness.
For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

In this church of St. Alban’s, we have just completed a very busy and meaningful season of Advent.
Yet during the last four weeks of Advent, I have certainly seen and felt your darkness.
In just these last few weeks,
At least one of you has lost your job.
One of you has a niece who is dying of cancer and you are pondering how to handle her impending death.
One of you is unsure if you will have enough money to make it through the end of the year.
One of you underwent surgery with some scary complications that landed you in ICU.

On first glance, it would seem that the darkness is so thick and gloomy that the bad news of humanity will totally eclipse the light of life.
Yet anyone who has been a part of the church of Jesus Christ on this corner of Waco Drive and 30th Street would see, tangibly, that the light does shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
For at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, there is no such thing as a total eclipse.
Because every person in darkness that I have just pointed out to you has been bathed in the light and the love of Jesus Christ, as Jesus is known in this community that we call St. Alban’s.

Tonight, after we take Communion, the electric lights in this church will be turned down.
Candles will be lit to pierce the darkness.
And we will sing “Silent Night” on our knees.
It is probably one of my most favorite moments of the whole year.

Because as I sing that song about that dark, dark, silent night two thousand years ago, I gaze at the candles at the altar, casting a glow upon all those beautiful, red poinsettias.
And I remember that it is because of Jesus, and his birth into my life, that I am convinced that no matter how dark my life might become, that I am loved.
As tonight’s candles pierce the thick darkness, I am convinced that nothing will ever separate me from the light of love.

My brothers and sisters, on this most holy night, the light of love shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.
Because Jesus was born to show us that there is never, ever, ever - a total eclipse of God’s love.


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