Light of Life …… God-with-us

Mary Magdala Community

“Light of Life,,,,,,God-with-us” ©

Thoughts on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 16, 2018

by Rev. Jim Ryan,

We have reason to celebrate today!  This 3rd Sunday of Advent, as a marker in time, is an announcement of good that happens with closeness to the Word of Life.  As John announces in today’s Gospel reading, “I baptize you in water, but someone is coming who is mightier than I.  This one will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.”

This 8th Anniversary of our Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles community is a marker of the gift of community, particularly getting to know, care for, and love one another.  Who among us ever thought 8 years ago that we would be here today?

And finally, this Solstice celebration returns us on the cycle of light even as the earth is hard as rock, the air bites, and the night – minute by minute – grudgingly reduces its hold giving way to the growing light of day.

I would like to celebrate by inviting us to focus on that light which surely returns even as the dark seems to hold sway; even as the waning light of December’s 9 daylight  hours creeps ever so slowly but surely to June’s 15 ½ daylight hours.

Last Monday, in our corner of Wisconsin here in southern lakes country, we woke up to dense fog.  Now, when fog settles on Lake Geneva and the wind, the temperature, and the timing is just right the moisture of the lake creates its own environment of ice coverings especially on the trees and the shrubs.  Then with a little luck of timing a bright sun rises, as it did on Monday.  This provided us with a shimmering, glistening vision of reflected light.  It was a glorious sight.  We know the lake and its surroundings  is a special spot for making this sight possible because we live 10 minutes away and got none of the full effect of the shining and the reflecting crystalline world until we drove south to the lake.  All these conditions make for this created wonder.  This reflecting light from ice covered trees gives me the thought that the coming light of this Advent-Christmas-Epiphany Season is an invitation to glory.  When you stand surrounded by such a sight as we had on Monday morning, you can’t help but be thankful for the gift.  Perhaps this moves you to want to also reflect the light of God’s love; makes you the ice crystals soaking up the sun for the purpose of sharing light.  The reflecting light gives God the glory.

A second thought on light considers the light that penetrates darkness.  Before we had knowledge of the effect of laser beams, for almost two thousand  years monks and mystics had this image of the beam of light that penetrates the darkness.  Surely, they thought, the Creator will illumine their hearts, their spirits, their entire being through the beam that propels itself to one’s most inmost, what, soul?  Two weeks ago I mentioned Thomas Merton’s final manuscript that was published just this year under the title, “The Climate of Monastic Prayer.”  In it he writes that the one who prays in a contemplative way seeks for God who is invisibly present to the ground of our being.  Earlier in the 20th century Paul Tillich would describe this experience as being grasped by ultimacy, by the divine, by God.  Merton says that the purpose of prayer is to deepen one’s consciousness of this relation between creature and Creator.  This deepening can be understood, it seems to me, as the beam of light that penetrates our lives – an illumination that makes all the rest of our lives seem dark in comparison.  So, while we love the crystalline light that reflects God’s glory for all the world to see, we humbly receive the beam of illuminating light that penetrates the depths of all that we are.

A third thought on light focuses on the recurring cycle that Solstice celebrates.  While we know more than what the ancient pagans knew when it comes to the temporal existence of the sun – as in, the sun will go dark in some future age – that’s for a future worry!  For now, it is this recurring cycle which is the hope that Solstice celebrates.  For us in the north country – icy fogs, hardened earth, biting cold only last so long.  This week begins the reduction of night and the increase of day.  Hope returns to earth.  Just as our pagan ancestors – as in, those who lived at Newgrange in Ireland – built passage tombs whose entrances were oriented to allow Solstice light to fully penetrate the interior darkness, so we take on this thought in our understanding of Jesus, the Son of Light, becoming human to share in our journey of darkness giving way to  light.

Surely we’re all clear that the only reason that Christmas is at this time of year is because Christians wanted to take advantage of a pagan holiday and put their own stamp on the recurring cycle of new light.

So, today on Rejoice Sunday, on our Anniversary Sunday, the reflecting, penetrating, recurring light comes again.  This is our hope and our glory.  Come, Emmanuel……God-with-us.

A Prayer  Celtic Prayers from Iona

O God who brought us from the rest of last night

To the new light of this day.

Bring us in the new light of this day

To the guiding light of the eternal.

Lead us, O God, on the journey of justice.

Guide us, O God, on the pathways of peace.

Renew us, O God, by the wellsprings of grace

Today, tonight and forever.   Amen

A Solstice Prayer & A Blessing 

In the best tradition of Christians appropriating Pagan celebrations

O! Mighty goddess, in silvery ice, watching over us as we sleep,
a layer of shining white, covering the earth each night,
frost on the world and in the soul, we thank you for visiting us.
Because of you, we seek warmth in the comfort of our homes and hearths

–the blessing which we warmly share with all who seek your guidance,

Come, Emmanuel – rejoice in us now and evermore.     Amen.

Pagan Prayers for Yule Sabbat,

See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way for the bright sun soon to come.

See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way, for the world to awake once more.

See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way for the longest night of the year.

See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way for the sun to finally return,

bringing with it light and warmth.

See Emmanuel, the Light who comes very soon.         Amen.

Presider:  We live in the promise of Emmanuel, celebrating daily our life in the Spirit.

All:            Giving thanks to God!




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