Sunday, December 23, 2012


A guest posting from my friend, Father Paul Gennett.  See more at his church's website here.

“O come, thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing
 nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put
 to flight …” Verse 6, Hymn #56, The Hymnal 1982

I spent more time in our sanctuary this week. Just sitting in silence,
praying the names of the twenty children and six adults killed at
Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. Yet
again I wonder how, in this time of hope and holiness this season
desires to bring to our world, the darkness of the human soul and
death shrouds our hearts. And then, God gave me light for my heavy

Each time while sitting in prayer, I noticed the light of the day
playfully pouring through the southeast windows. One day, the blinding
brightness embracing our processional cross. Another day, more subdued
shades of light flickered and danced across the wooden pews. Another
day, the most brilliant array of colors through the stained glass
window in the front. I just sat in silence as the light shifted and
moved in its daily course, being open to the light of God’s healing
and hope restored in this soul.

We come to the shortest day of light in the year, the winter solstice
on December 21. Then we begin again, moving slowly yet inexorably
toward the sun’s bright rays and growing warmth in our days again. The
flow of Advent to Christmas is much the same for me. I hear the darker
words of the prophets of doom and judgment upon “the quick and the
dead,” being held in that tension of St. Paul’s call to “Rejoice! I
say again, Rejoice!” and to mother Mary’s radiant light glowing from
her womb of God’s Spirit within her.

I have been blessed with an Advent meditation appearing in my e-mail
each day written by the Reverend Brian Taylor for the CREDO Institute.
I like what he writes on Day 13 about tension we hold living in this
in-between time, ever seeking to be the hope bearers and light
birthers to our world. He writes, “On a white wall, the sun comes
through a window at a low angle. The patch of light is separated by
the mullions on my window. Dancing gently in the light are shadows of
leaves on the tree outside. This sight always stops me and tugs at my
heart. Everything becomes very still, except for one thing: the gently
shifting shadows and light.

This is the gentle mood of this season, too. We are stopped, our
hearts are tugged, by shadow and light, with the earlier night, the
longer shadows, the softer light. In my part of the country on
Christmas Eve, we light luminarias—votive candles imbedded in sand, inside a glowing paper
bag, hundreds, if not thousands of them flickering in the dark night,
lighting the way for the Holy Family as they seek shelter.

One sees this same interplay of light and darkness in the famous icon
of Christ Pantocrator, from the monastery of St. Catherine at Mt.
Sinai. If you cover the right side of the image and look at the left
side alone, he seems innocent, open, clear, seemingly loving, and
completely present to the viewer. But if you cover the left side and
look at the right side alone, it is quite another matter. He seems
complex, dark, somewhat hidden, a tad frightening. But both are Christ—
light and shadow. He loves and heals, but he also judges and divides
with a sword. He says Blessed are they and Woe to them. If Christ
doesn’t scare and confound us a little bit, I suspect we’re leaving
something out.

We, too, are interplay of shadow and light in this season. We gather
with family and friends around a loving and abundant table, but
there’s someone we have never reconciled with. We examine our hearts
to prepare a place for the Christ child to be born, and discover it
hasn’t been tended in awhile; it’s got dust and stains that are a
little too obvious for comfort. We enter the joy of the holidays, but
a shadow crosses our soul as a loss is remembered, as a sense of
emptiness returns.”

 “O come, O come, Emmanuel …”

In peace always, your servant in Christ,


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