Family Liturgies

John 1: The Light Shines

by Joe Greemore

Scripture: John 1:1-14 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

One of my favorite Advent memories through the years has been the Christmas Eve Candle Light service: the power of darkness enveloping a hopeful congregation, one tiny light shining in our midst, the brevity with which an entire sanctuary full of people is bathed in an ever-spreading swath of warm, glowing light as those gathered harmoniously sing, “Silent Night.” Somewhere along the way I learned the German lyrics to “Stille Nacht” and lately have come to find myself singing one verse on the tenor part in the original German, as if by doing so I am that much closer to the original Christ light.

However, the music of this beloved carol by Franz Gruber and lyrics by Joseph Mohr are a mere 198 years old (1818), coming somewhere in the neighborhood of 1800 years after the Christ event at Bethlehem. So much time has passed, so many world events gone by, the rise and fall of nations, the changing of the religious, socio-economic, and political landscapes in our world during those two millennia; sometimes I wonder whether I’m getting lost in the translation of time, language, and culture. Even so, the light shines.

candlelightservicepfAdd to this context the content of our singing: the light my children and I joyfully share with one another as we sing of “sleeping in heavenly peace” is symbolic of the birth of a child who would challenge the established order of things during his lifetime, making way for the glorious ‘kindom’ of God to invade our world. We sing of the daring hope of love and reconciliation, hope for the poor, hope for the soul. So many layers of meaning are wrapped into these symbolic moments it is a wonder I have the clarity to remember distinctly any of them. This year, the light of Christ has a special welcome and an urgent need in our world, and I would love to think it shines not only in candles and carols, but as it has for millennia, in the repository of memory, the human heart.

Questions to Spark Conversation
-What is your favorite carol?

-Can you recall any favorite Christmas Eve memories?

-What does the light of Christ represent for your family?

-How can we make room for the light of Christ in our daily lives today? In our hearts?

Spiritual Practice
Choose one of the following:
Find a Christmas Eve Candle Light service to attend as a family.

Plan to begin a family Advent wreath candle lighting or reading practice for your family.

Begin a scrapbook of Christmas Eve memories/prayers/hopes.

Collaboratively craft and share your own carol.

Divine Master,
illuminate my heart,
so that the light of your love
may be the more clearly seen
through the flickering of my own.


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