Light of the World

經文:以賽亞書9:2-7 12-25-2011

Merry Christmas! The day that we have been waiting for is finally here! You know, I have to tell you—birthdays can be special, even though in my family, we don’t really celebrate birthdays very much.

My cousin Joe and his wife Shirley just had their baby boy, Ian. Even though they live in Taiwan, I can tell from their Facebook page that everyone was excited and eager about his birth. All of their family and friends already welcomed baby Ian, even before he was born. And I can bet you that when he was about to be born, my cousin Joe was there, waiting for him.

Maybe we haven’t prepared for nine months for baby Jesus—actually, I’m sure we did not. But we’ve had four weeks to prepare for the arrival and coming of Jesus. Each week in Advent, we have lit a candle to remind us about the light of the world. We have waited in hope, peace, joy, and in love. Finally, we had our Candlelight Christmas Eve service, where we wait symbolically for the birth of Jesus.

You know, I think it’s really interesting that we always spend New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop because we’re so eager to be awake to see the New Year, but we don’t really do that for Christmas. But really, we SHOULD be excited. We should want to be awake to welcome the birth of Jesus. This is one of the two most exciting days of the year. Christmas day is when we realize the truth of what God has said through Isaiah.

In Isaiah’s time, things weren’t going so great. Isaiah speaks of a people who have walked in the darkness. You know, the Jews in the Old Testament have suffered. They have been chased out of their homelands, been made into slaves, wandered for decades to get to their chosen land, conquered and oppressed, over and over again throughout history.

But it is not just the Israelites. We all know about darkness. How many of us have been afraid of the dark as children? I’ll tell you right now, I don’t like being out by myself at night. It can be scary not being able to see what is coming (or not coming!). When I am out by myself at night, I am extra careful to make sure I am aware of my surroundings. As Asian Americans, we sometimes understand that there’s darkness in society; for example, the racism that we experience because we look different; for some of us, because we talk differently.

But today’s passage is not about darkness. Today, the people who walked in darkness—each and every one of us, have not only seen a great light, but we are blessed by the light. As a tradition, we always turn off our lights at the end of the service and light candles. This is because we want to remember and celebrate that Jesus is the light of the world. But more than that, Jesus came into the world to show us the way— how to love God and God’s people, or—to show us how to LIVE.

And that’s why we light the candles at the end of our Christmas Ever service, because we know that Christ is born. We know that the great light has come and with that great light, there is no darkness. This is why we light our final candle: the white, Christ candle. The Christ candle symbolizes Christ, as light of the world. Then, we use the Christ candle to light our own candles. Our candles, then, symbolize the great light that is Jesus. Lighting those candles means having Jesus with us.

Christmas is a day a hope; a day that changes everything. Maybe the world will not change, but our lives will be transformed. We have someone who lives to suffer with us, to be with us, to help us through our lives by guiding us. Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is not. But always, when I think back on my life, I can see how God has a plan for me. I can see that God has molded me and prepared me for what I am doing right now.

I always thought that I wanted to work in non-profits. That always seemed so glamorous: to work with international corporations, working on some sort of issue that would change the world. So I got SO excited in seminary when I found out that my field education advisor had a contact who worked with the United Church of Christ as a lobbyist. I just thought that would be the coolest job.

She said that she would get in touch with this woman and let me know. An entire summer went by. I heard nothing. So, when school started, I went to see her. She said that she never heard back from this woman, and was pretty surprised. However, if I wanted, she still had opportunities for me. She said that she had two internships that still need to be filled. One of them was a position at Connecticut Hospice. When I heard that, I thought—umm… dying people? How depressing! No way!

But then something made me say, actually, why don’t I give it a chance? So I made an appointment with the lady, a nun, and I went to Branford. As soon as I set foot into the building, I knew I was in the right place. In that moment, my entire life changed. In that moment, I began to realize that I needed to do things that I hadn’t even considered before, like becoming ordained. This is the path that I began and here I am.

But now, what I do, I could not have anticipated. As a chaplain, I have the privilege to do as Christ had done—to walk alongside of people who are sick and suffering through their time in the hospital. I am sure that many of you have stories like this. The light of God may not always be visible or understandable to us. But, that’s not really the point. The point is, the light is always there, because it is a gift that has been given to us. It will never be taken away and never forgotten.

Happy Christ’s birthday. May the light of God shine brightly upon you, within you, and through you.  

Isaiah 9:2-7 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of dian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.