Light shimmers through the Gospel reading for Christmas Day: the stunning Prologue to the Gospel of John. Tonight, revisiting my luminous Book of Common Prayer, I read John’s words—which the book renders in the King James Version, of course. In this passage that I love and have read approximately a zillion times, what struck me tonight, in this version, were these words:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all . . . through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
— John 1:6-8
Most times when I read this passage, I’m focused on John the Evangelist’s elegant and moving description of how Christ came as the Word: the Word that was with God, the Word that was God, the Word that was in the beginning with God, the Word that came as life and light. As a woman with a passion for the Word, and words, and the connections between them, I never cease to be stunned by the power of this poetic passage and what—and how—it tells us of the One who entwined himself with us as life and flesh and light. Yet tonight, amidst the luminous words about the Word, my eye keeps going back to John—the one whom we call the Baptist, the one who prepared the way—and how, as the King James Version puts it, he came “to bear witness of that light.”
Even as Advent calls us to honor the gifts of the dark, this season bids us recognize our ancient longing for illumination, and to celebrate the One who came to us as light. Amidst the shadows—some necessary, some horrendous—God beckons us to look deeper, to look more closely, that we may find the presence of the Christ who shimmers there. And, finding that presence, to bear witness.
How do we, in our own lives, do what John the Baptist did in his life? How do we bear witness of that light?
As we cross the threshold into Christmas, here at the end of our Advent pilgrimage, these are some of the questions I will carry with me, tucked in the traveling bag where all my mysteries go. In the days, weeks, months to come, how will I bear witness to, point toward, open myself to, embody the God who came as life and as light? Are there any pockets of ignorance or indifference within me that God might be desiring to illuminate? Is there something I have been content to leave in shadow, in mystery, where God might be inviting me to kindle even a small flame and wait in stillness to see what reveals itself?
— Jan L. Richardson from Through the Advent Door
When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!
And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love’s presence near.
Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.
— May Sarton from Collected Poems
Embodying The Light
A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
— Lao-tzu in the “Tao Te Ching” by Stephen Mitchell
- Guide to Advent
- Christmas Day: Where the Light Begins
- Make Of Yourself A Light
- Believe There Is Good In The World
- It’s The Love That We Are Made For, The Reason For Our Being
- God With Us
- A Christmas Blessing
- Unbind Me; A Prayer for Joy
MERRY CHRISTMAS … BEST WISHES FOR A NEW YEAR THAT IS JOYFUL AND PEACE-FILLED!