The Glory of the Lord Shone...
There are times when I have to get up in the middle of the night. And when I do, I'm not always steady on my feet. I often stumble my way across the bedroom, bumping into the wall that is on my side of the bed. It doesn't happen often (I think maybe twice since we moved to Chamblee), but every now and then, as I fumble my way across the floor, I bounce off the wall right at the spot where the light switch is. A light shines in the darkness. It's a horrible thing, at 2:00 in the morning, to go from what feels like moving from the center of a black hole to standing on the sun.
When the angel of the Lord appears before the shepherds, "the glory of the Lord shone around them." In my mind's eye, I picture something like that 2:00 am trip from the bed; shepherds used to being surrounded by the darkness of the night sky are suddenly bathed in blinding light. And, we are told (and, I am not surprised), "they were terrified."
Tonight, as we have re-told the story of our salvation, from the prophets and the psalms to the gospels, the light has crept closer and closer, turning the darkness away as it comes. Light is, on balance, is what we desire. It is a god thing, as we have heard in our Scriptures and hymns and reflections this evening. But it can be downright terrifying. After all, as the light moves forward, it comes closer not to the pulpit, but to the cross.
But terror and crucifixion do not have the last word for us tonight. The waiting of ancient peoples gives way to the birth of a Savior. The cross is transformed from an instrument of condemnation into the means of salvation. The fear of the shepherds leads to rejoicing and praise.
Friends, let us be held by those words of the angel, saying, "Do not be afraid." Hope carries the day; God gives the final word; light and life surround us.
The light has not stopped moving. It cannot; light is movement by its very essence. Tonight, as we light our candles and sing our praises, we are the ones who carry that light into the world. We are called to be God's messengers carrying that word of divine confidence to a world that can be so gripped in fear. And as the world, and we with it, blinks against the blinding light of God's grace, let us remember that God goes before us, calling to us as we find our way, catching us as we stumble, lifting us when we fall.