“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.”
We were visited this week by unspeakable tragedy and despair, an inner darkness of the soul. A lone gunman has once again wreaked terror on an unsuspecting community, this time murdering twenty little children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Though this kind of violence is unusual in many of our lives, it plays out in our world so regularly that it is nearly impossible to watch the news without hearing of some suicide bombing, the latest casualties from wars somewhere in the world, violence on our streets and in our homes.
There is a darkness that frightens us, that reminds us of the empty and disconnected spaces within our own hearts and souls. This darkness is sometimes triggered by past experiences, the tragedy and loss that shatter our world and that we don’t often have the tools to heal from effectively. It’s a darkness that is part of the human family, brought on by our inability to deal with strong emotions that bring us back to our more primitive natures. And if we haven’t learned to deal with these powerful emotional forces we act out of them in ways that can be destructive to ourselves and those around us.
When faced with great tragedy we find that the landscape around us has shifted and nothing seems right nor will it be the same again. There’s not enough within us to keep us going. We all face those moments of despair where we have to decide whether to go on, whether or not to let our light shine. Matthew’s gospel tells us that we are indeed the light of the world and that our light should not be hidden. No matter how much we have been hurt, no matter how much we despair, we pray for the courage and strength to let our light shine, to open our hearts to grace, to let the giving and caring parts of ourselves emerge once again so that we can heal and give glory to God with our good works.
This is a season of holiday celebrations and rituals of many traditions. These rituals are a promise to us that the darkness will leave and the light will come. They are a promise to us that our emptiness will be filled, and that our hope will be rekindled by the birth of the Christ child, in the cleansing of the temple, in the return of the sun. In our faith we find the courage to break through our fear of all that lives in the darkness, in the shadows of our own souls.
And the important thing to remember is that we need not move through the darkness alone. All people create their rituals as celebrations for family or gatherings for the entire community. It is in the relationships, the connections that we build and celebrate at this time of year that we face the darkness and turmoil, tragedy and grief. The magic of this season is in what we build together as we manifest the love and presence of God in each others lives. When we reach beyond ourselves in love and giving we create the magical moments, the connection with our deepest selves, with each other, and with the source of all life and love, with God.
Let us pray for those who have been lost and give comfort to those who have survived. Let us work diligently to end the course of violence within our own lives and our communities. Let us take the courageous step to face whatever inner demons plague us so that we will not perpetrate violence on others. And, yes, let’s let our light shine. Though we often don’t know from where our strength will come, let’s let our light shine, and we’ll do what we can. When struck with tragedy at this or any time of the year, let’s gather together to remind ourselves that life is still good, that we continue to need each other. Let’s hold each other closely and be gentle with ourselves and each other. And let’s kindle the light within our souls to outshine any darkness there. Let our lights shine brightly.
Amen, Blessed Be.
Rev. Arthur Lavoie is the Minister at First Parish Church in Dorchester, Unitarian Universalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org