This sermon was partially taken from Rev. Ben E. Helmer and by Rev. Sr. Thea Joy Browne
Just what is "Light"? According to the Gospel of John, "God was life, and the life was the light of all people." In the dictionary the word of light had about 37 different descriptions of light. I think I’ll go along with John's description, sounds good to me.
I have a story about a family looking for a better life for their children. One family man, we'll call Andrew.
Andrew was from Chuuk State, a chain of islands surrounding a large lagoon in the Micronesian archipelago. The Federated States of Micronesia are a part of the Compact of Free Association that allows Micronesians to travel and work anywhere in the U.S. without a visa.
Andrew came to Guam with his common-law wife and several children, seeking a better life and to escape from the grinding poverty that afflicts much of Micronesia. He had no marketable skills and a minimal education, so he was barely literate in his own language. But he was a handsome, strong man who was willing to work.
Since his arrival on Guam, his family had broken apart, and he now was responsible for two of his five children: a young girl and boy for whom he was the sole support. As he sought employment, he subsisted with the aid of food stamps and kept them safe, seeing that the older girl was in school. Meanwhile, because of the scarcity of housing and priority given to US citizens, he moved his family at least five times in the last two years, often leaving belongings behind as they moved.
Doesn't this story also reflect on Joseph and Mary, as they spent much of Jesus' infancy in exile, staying ahead of Herod and his henchmen, who were determined to keep any rival kingship at bay. Their life, like Andrew and his children's, was one of displacement and fear. Joseph often had to move his family out of harm's way as Andrew did; Joseph because of political threats, Andrew because of drugs, alcohol abuse, and violence in the places where he could afford to live.
This Sunday is often called Holy Family Sunday. In the familiar lectionary the theme was always focused on the Holy Family and their flight into Egypt. The light shining in the darkness could well apply to those who seek a safe place to raise their children in a dark, chaotic, and violent world.
There are now more refugees throughout the world than ever before, most of them victims of war and economic displacement for which they are not responsible. All they seek is a secure place with reasonable food, safe drinking water, and a chance to educate their children. Consider the words in today's reading from Isaiah:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God: for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
These words were written to express the joy of a nation delivered from exile; but they could well be words of a refugee family finding a safe haven.
It is a shame that our political and economic systems have failed in their ability to provide such places for people seeking refuge. Even with efforts by churches and volunteer organizations to resettle refugees, many remain in camps and compounds, some waiting for resettlement for years. Their faith and hope diminishes over time, and the failure of governments to find solutions is a great sorrow. Like many problems, the solution to this dilemma seems often beyond our reach. We care, but what can we do?
Saying we can do nothing is not an option. There are numerous private reputable organizations that address these conditions, among them is our own Episcopal Relief and Development. Choosing to join a mission that is capable of addressing the plight of refugees and homeless people is easily done online with the stroke of a few keys. That really helps in many ways that we are not able to do.
Today's gospel reading begins with the theme of Jesus as the Word; the Life: and the Light. For John, Jesus is the one true light coming into the world, "the true light that enlightens everyone."
In our baptismal relationship with Jesus, we begin to see what the darkness often hides: the needs of the poor, the oppressed, and refugees. To turn away from them is to say no to the light. 'Then we become dwellers in the darkness as well.’
As we remember the Holy Family this Sunday, remember also that they represent to us all political and economic refugees. The response to the gospel message requires more than remembering them, it calls us to action - an action of relief and support that ensures that the light shines in the darkness.
As Christians, we experience the blessedness of life given to us by the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. As Christians, we celebrate the eternity of life given to us by the victory of Jesus, the Lamb of God. On this day, we stand together and bear proud witness to the power of God to touch and heal and transform. We don't deny the darkness of sin that overshadows this world; instead, we place our total confidence in the Light of Christ to overcome the darkness and to lead us again and again into the possibility of new life.