Scripture: John 1:1-9 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
"The light shines in the darkness." John 1:5 appears not only on the second Sunday of Christmas but many churches will read this on Maundy Thursday as well. John's words of hope and trust in God resonate whenever the struggles of the world, or just our own lives, threaten to overwhelm.
The holiday lights on trees and houses, in city parks and in church sanctuaries will begin to disappear in the days to come. The trees will come down, if they have not already, and all the tinsel and bright decorations will be packed away for another year. Though the daylight hours are slowly lengthening, we are still in a season of shadows, and in Connecticut, often clouds and snow. We have put Christmas away, and so left ourselves without that extra light to see us through to Easter and Spring!
I love it that the writer of John does not say: "The light destroyed the darkness." We were not promised that. We were promised that in the midst of shadows and struggles, in the midst of deep winter nights, in the midst of times of despair and despondence, long after all the Christmas lights have been packed away, a light still shines. Like those old New England lighthouses sending a beacon across the stormy Atlantic, the light still shines.
As winter lingers in our world, perhaps discipleship looks like this: bearing witness to the light, like John the Baptist did. Bearing witness to our own spirits and minds when the shadows threaten to overwhelm. Bearing witness to others who are afraid or despairing or have given up on the possibility of good. It is not a trivial or childish thing to sing with all our hearts: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." Because the light actually is not ours; it comes from Jesus. Which means it cannot be overcome. Thanks be to God.
Send us the light of love and life, brightly shining One, and help us to open ourselves to reflect that light. In Jesus' name, Amen.
The Rev. Rochelle A. Stackhouse is the Transitional Pastor of the First Church of Christ in Hartford, CT.