Well, here we are in the week leading up to Christmas. And I don't think I'm going to burst anyone's bubble by telling you that Jesus probably wasn't born on December 25. In fact, most theologians have absolutely no idea when Jesus was actually born. The Christian church decided on the date of December 25 almost 400 years after Jesus died. And they did so because it coincided with a Roman pagan festival called Natalis Solis, which was a celebration of the birth of the SUN. The early Christian church usurped this pagan festival of light, this celebration of the birth of the sun, and they remade it into a religious festival, celebrating the light of the world and the birth of the SON.
This time of year there are many faith and cultural traditions who honor and celebrate the Light. Our Hindu brothers and sisters celebrate Diwali, our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah, our African American brothers and sisters celebrate Kwanzaa. Our Buddhist friends celebrate Bodhi day, the day of Buddha's enlightenment. All of these holidays are celebrations of the Light.
That's why many of us choose to say Happy Holidays this time of year. It's not because there's a "War on Christmas," but because we recognize that many other faiths are also celebrating holidays, Holy Days, this time of year, and that ours isn't the only one. All of us are celebrating the one true light.
Regardless of your faith tradition, the reason for the season is to remind ourselves that the light of the cosmos dwells with us, and is within us. That's what the name Emanuelle means. God's light is within us. Jesus told us this. He said that we are the light of the world, that we are sons and daughters of God, and that the kingdom of heaven is within us. That's what he told us. But most of us tend to forget it.
And so every year we as Christians celebrate Christmas, to remind ourselves of this gift, and to remind ourselves, that the Christ light dwells within us. God so loved the world, that God gave us this gift of light, this gift of it's very self.
God so loves You, that God makes its dwelling place within you. God so loves you, that God put it's very light within you.
Now, you may find all of that hard to believe, hard to comprehend, but so did Mary. In today's Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the angel announces to Mary that she will conceive and give birth to the light of the world. Mary is in disbelief. She says "How can this be?" And the angel tells her, "Nothing is impossible with God."
My friends, God's light is within you. And you have been called, like Mary, to give birth to it into the world. Yes You! Regardless of your past or your perceived imperfections, God's light is in you, and wants to express through you.
So how do we do this? Well, the Christmas story tells us how. First, we like Mary in today's Gospel reading, have to give our consent. We have to say "Yes" to God. We must be willing to nurture and bear the light within us. And like Joseph, we need to prepare room for the light to be born, if our inn is already full. If our innermost being is already filled with anger, resentments, worry, fear, and lack, then there's no room for the light to be born in us. And like the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep, we must keep watch over our thoughts and tend to them. Negative thinking leads us astray and takes our focus off of our light. And like the Magi, we must allow ourselves to follow the Star of Wonder, wherever it may lead, so that we can be guided by that perfect light.
All of us, my friends, all of us as Christians are called to birth the light to make room for it within us and to nurture its growth, not just at Christmastime, but throughout our spiritual lives. So on this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, may the Light of the Christ be born in your minds and in your hearts, and may more and more of the Christ Light continue to be awakened and nurtured within you throughout the coming year. The Light is on its way. Let every heart prepare Him room.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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