Sermon: The Word, The light and the Child”
Merry Christmas to you all!
Blessed Christmas Day as we are greeted here in church with the wonderful Christmas Carols and Hymns that truly speaks to our hearts and to our fondest memories.
We are embraced by the warmth of the traditions, the hymns, the music, the congregation, but most importantly by the words. Today we are greeted by the more profound and deeper words of wisdom that are spoken in the Gospel according to John. “ In the beginning….” Poetic, profound, prophetic, promising words that in the most wonderful way embraces past, present and future, and tells us about the bigger perspective of life.
Yesterday we listened to the beloved story about once upon a time when Augustus was emperor and Qurinius was governor, and Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem and Jesus was born; today we are greeted by these poetic words that truly puts that specific time in human history and in Christian history in a much bigger divine perspective – andconnects all history of mankind and the purpose of creation.
In the beginning….. and that beginning embraces all other beginnings through history and time, through ages and centuries and connects this moment, this morning, our time… with God’s time and eternity.
“ The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
This is my absolute favorite verse in the entire Bible. The promise that light is stronger than darkness, that life is stronger than death, that love is stronger than hate and despair.
Christmas has come and we are once again reminded that the light shines strong and bright even amid all of our darkness and despair.
Christmas calls us
· to stand amid such darkness and proclaim the one who is light;
· to stand amid al fractured and divided people and preach community and unity;
· to stand amid fear and uncertainty and to incarnate faith and courage.
Christmas calls us
· to stand and speak the truth and about the truth that was revealed in the manger and on the cross;
· to stand up with lifted heads and strong spirits and warm hearts and declare: that love is stronger than hate, that hope will not disappoint, that though the wrong seems often so strong, God is the ruler yet.
Christmas calls us
· to believe in Immanuel, God with us and for us.
O come o Come Immanuel
And bless each place your people dwell
Melt every weapon crafted for war,
Bring peace upon the earth forever more.
Rejoice, rejoice. Take heart and do not fear
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, is near!
Thus, we have been singing through the Sundays of Advent; about our hope, our dream, our longing for peace, light and love.
I cannot listen to the Gospel of Christmas from Luke without being struck by and deeply moved by the simple name of Syria…. As Syria is and should be on our minds and in our deepest prayers this Christmas: the millions of refugees, fleeing mothers and children, desperate for peace and shelter, and the horrible images of the weeping, vulnerable, weary children of Aleppo.
And as we pray for and remember the Syria of today and the town of Aleppo today, - I would like to tell you a story about another country and another war and another city.
Do you remember the wars of Balkans back in the 1990’s? Do you recall the terrible Siege of Sarajevo? Sarajevo was an ancient beautiful city, straddled by river and surrounded by hills, but during the terrible Balkan wars and the Siege nearly ninety percent of all building were damaged or destroyed – and thousands of people were killed and thousands became refugees.
On May 27th 1992 a bakery in Sarajevo, which happened to have a supply of flour, was making bread and distributing it to the starving war shattered people. At 4 pm a long line stretched into the street and suddenly: a shell fell directly into the middle of the line, killing 22 people.
A hundred yards away lived at man called Vedran Smajlovic. Before the war, he had been the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera Company, and when he saw the massacre outside his window in his beloved town, he was pushed beyond this capacity to endure anymore. Driven by his anguish, he decided to act, and so he did the only way he knew: with his music.
Every day thereafter at 4 pm precisely, Mr. Smajlovic would put on his full formal concert attire and walk out of his apartment amid a raging war. He would place a little campstool in the middle of the war rubbles and ruins, and play a concert to the abandoned street, while bombs were still dropping around him. Day after day he made his unimaginable courageous stand for human dignity, for civilization, for compassion, for peace and for Christianity.
He played Mozart, Beethoven and most notably the beautiful Albinonis Adagio in G Minor.
What a powerful image of this man against the cannon fire, playing to both side of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loved. When he later was asked why; the cellist said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.
When asked by a CNN reporter if he was not crazy to play this cello while Sarajevo was being shelled, Smajllovic replied: “You ask me am I crazy for playing the cello, why do you not ask it they are crazy for bombing Sarajevo?”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
It was indeed a daily powerful offer of a musical prayer of peace, playing in the ruins and being an inspiration to all of us.
And I pray that we too are courageous to pick up our cello and play… amid darkness and despair, in the rubble of war and terror.
I pray that we as a humane humans and Christian Christians are courageous and compassionate to pick up our cello and play… and confess and live our faith in the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
We do display our faith in our actions, in our lives, in our relationships, in our obligations, in our sacrifices, in our commitments, in our service and in our courage to pick up our cello and play!
“In the beginning was the word and the light… “ In the beginning was God’s word and light – and it is still among us and within us. Urging us to believe, to hope, to love and to play on our cello.
In the beautiful Christmas Poem by Danish poet Steen Kalo:
1. Walk in the darkness with light. Walk knowing that you do not walk alone. Walk with the light. Come!
2. Walk for others with hope. Walk between stumbling. Walk in the flickering shadows. Walk – feel that we should!
3. Walk with the hungry and tired. Walk – be close to them. Revelation and grace. Walk – Christ is here!
4. Walk, even so afraid, with courage. Walk with everything you believe in. The night will be bright as the day. Walk with God.
5. Walk – feel life begin. Walk with message of peace. Walk – let your hearts sing. Walk with love.
6. Walk in the darkness with light. Walk knowing that you do not walk alone. Walk with the light. Come!
We should leave here and walk into life with the message and hope of peace. The peace that we do believe in and hope for and long for. A peace that might be difficult believing in the times of gruesome terror, crying victims, thousands of refugees, the silent fear and so many hateful words.
That is why we must walk with and for others with hope. Walk with and by everything we believe in and hold dear. Walk with a message of peace, especially in times like this as we do believe in peace as God has promise to us.
Merry Christmas to all of you and remember: to carry the light of Christmas into the new year. Walk in the darkness with the light knowing that you are not walking alone.
Walk with light in the world: and be light in the World, - and do not be afraid to pick up your cello and play!