Following the Light

starI recently attended an Advent gathering at an Episcopal Church in Florida. It was held outdoors, under the stars, on a pitch black night. While walking in, I saw what I thought was a homeless person standing next to a wall. He had a beard, long hair, and was bent over wearing a baggy garment. Approaching with care, thinking of what I would say and how I would welcome him into our church community, I suddenly realized it was not a man, but a statue.

Rounding the corner, I saw a camel led by another man who was guiding the lanky animal down a winding path. Further ahead was a person crouched down, looking up at the stars. I then realized that these were life-size figures in a nativity set making their way to the Christ child and suddenly, I found myself on the journey with them, right in the middle of the seeking and wandering, wondering exactly what lay ahead.

It was a holy moment as I experienced for a short while what it might have felt like to those early travelers following the light of the star, following their hopes and dreams of a savior, a new tomorrow. My heart began to beat more rapidly in anticipation of the promises foretold and I was captivated by the moment.

Oh how we have lost that feeling in the busyness of our days filled with shopping, preparation, troubling news day in and day out. Yet how much we need to recapture it, reclaim it for ourselves, for our very souls.

For what is at stake is, in fact, our soul. I am convinced that when we read and watch a 24-hour news cycle filled with hate, discord, enmity among our sister and brother Americans, it can be and is soul-destroying. In the midst of the stark partisanship and focus on the sins of others while ignoring our own, we lose a piece of ourselves.

And what we lose is literally peace. The ability to reflect. The ability to see the Christ in others, especially those with whom we disagree. This season of Advent, of waiting for the Christ child, is one in which we are meant to reflect on what it means that Christ came into the world over 2,000 years ago as a tiny, vulnerable baby. Vulnerable to all the vicissitudes of the world. Vulnerable to the forces that seek to divide and destroy and tear apart.

It is ultimately those very forces that led to Christ’s crucifixion 33 years later, seeming victim of the hatred of a world gone mad. But we know the end of the story. Christ was victorious and rose again to say ‘no’ to the principalities of evil and destruction, ‘no’ to that which destroys and breaks down and tears apart.

We who seek him now must follow him in the days ahead. Regardless of the personal cost. Regardless of where it leads us. For if it is Christ we seek this Christmas, then it is Christ we must follow in the days to come into the way of justice, truth and light.

On that dark night, those who wandered and wondered were led. They followed.

Will you?

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