Sermons from St Faith's   

Walking in the Light

Paula O'Shaughnessy, 27th December, 2015

The Christmas tree festival here at St Faith's was a wondrous sight.  The darkness of the bleak midwinter was overcome with the lights on the 40 or so Christmas trees – each one beautifully different.  The smell of the pine tree oil was spicy and earthy, inviting and embracing.  The hard work of the volunteers made the festival come alive and happen – welcoming people from the community to the church sanctuary, for a great experience of senses and delight – with good food and a place to rest awhile. 

In the advent season, we all look forward to the coming of the light of the world – seeking the hope of mankind.  The words of the today's reading – John's first letter reveal this:

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another."

Can we but hold on to this truth?  St John of the Cross, the 16th century Carmelite monk, wrote about 'the dark night of the soul': "That night guided me more surely than the midday sun to where there waited for me him whom well I knew there where no-one else appeared."

How do we fare with our own dark nights of the soul?  I don't know about you, but I can't say that I've always managed so well!  But, we cannot survive alone, without God.  He is with us, and we need to keep that faith, in the times of darkness as well as the times of light.  I found in meditating on the readings today, that the very distinctive writings of John the Evangelist brought this challenge out very strongly.  It is easier to read the other 3 Gospels, with their familiar, almost homely style.  You can't help but love the stories in Luke about Jesus' early life, with the hope and familial warmth.  John's Gospel seems more remote, less comforting.  There are no parables in John, and no specific message to help the poor, to love one's neighbour or one's enemies.  The new commandment from Jesus is this:

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

John's Gospel has an intensity in its focus on bringing faith in Christ Jesus to the people.  In Chapter 20.31 he sets the purpose of the Gospel:  "But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

It is the sustaining power of faith, the life we find in Christ, which John proclaims.  When we look around us today, we see the need for faith and strength of belief.  As the instabilities of the world erode the safety of God's people – so do we need to pray for faith and the strength which it brings.  The broken agreements around the world, big and small with the sadnesses that go with them – which need to be renewed with faith.

As churches close, as people turn away from God and towards the shallow materialism of the secular world, as the meanings become lost to the next generation – so do we need to pray hard, in the dark night of the soul, looking for the dawn.  The zeal of John the Evangelist can inspire us.  Symbolised as an eagle – represented on many a church lectern – the word and faith soars above the earth, inspired and inspiring.  Whether John the Evangelist was John the Beloved disciple, or (as some theologians believe – a pupil of John the apostle, known as John the Elder), we cannot be sure.  His certainty of belief in Christ Jesus is clear.  John's Gospel is one of four, no greater or lesser than the others, but rather complementary – altogether though, greater though than the sum of the parts. 

The love we show to one another, is key – as Christ lives in us.  Where we see Christ in each other.  Not always easy to do, but we must try if we are to be true to our faith.  If we are to walk in the light, to have life in Christ Jesus, we have to be brave, to fight against the darkness of the world and our own weakness.  As John of the Cross wrote:

"Where there is no love, put love, and you will receive love back."

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