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December 25, 2017

Light Dawns

Ancient symbols depicting the gospel writers are a winged man for Matthew, a winged lion for Mark, a winged bull for Luke, and for John . . . an eagle. It is said that the eagle is the only creature that can stare, unblinking, directly at the sun without looking away. Similarly, John the evangelist seems to point directly at God, unblinking and unafraid.

John’s Christmas story doesn’t involve sheep, a stable, shepherds, or magi. The holy family is not mentioned. It is hard to write the nativity play and cast the Sunday school children when the characters are Word, life, and light. John wants us to know, before his story fully begins, that the Word of God has been present from the beginning, and yet is still coming into the world among us.

Last evening, worship spaces were dimly lighted, filled with the smell of beeswax and hope, as the world sat vigil, awaiting the arrival of the baby. This morning light fills the room. The candlelight is swallowed up by sunlight. No one is sitting in the shadows of the stable; now they’re standing to receive the Word, flesh living among us.

It is a custom or sign of reverence to bow toward symbols in our worship that convey God’s presence or movement. When a processional cross comes down the aisle the assembly turns toward it and may bow. When the gospel book is read from or elevated, some make the sign of the cross. When the bread and wine are at the altar, fully Christ’s body and blood, some bow. Less often do we see the presiding minister bow to the assembly, but maybe we should.

Whenever the assembly, fed by word and meal, is sent from this place, we are the bearers of light, life, and the Word made flesh to the world.