In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own did not welcome him. 12 But to all who welcomed him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And 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.
Since Advent we have been using art in the bulletin from an organization called “Sanctified Art,” and with every piece, we have included a statement from the artist explaining something about their work. Recently, Hans van Meeuwen, an artist from our congregation, sent me the picture that is in our bulletin today, wondering if we might use it sometime. Since this week we move into the season of Epiphany, the season of revelation, illumination, the spreading out of the light that shines in the birth and person of Jesus, Hans’ drawing came as a perfect and timely gift. When I suggested that he write a brief explanation to go with the drawing, Hans said something like, “the meaning comes from the people who see the art.”
I hope you are able to see this picture of a person (I’ll say he’s male) carrying a candle that is almost as big as he is, with eyes looking out through the little space between the brilliant flame and the white waxy body of the candle. Hans’ art always makes me laugh because there is always some kind of disproportion and an improbability that seeds my imagination. The candle is too large. The man is, on the whole, too small, but his arms are disproportionately long, which makes it possible for him to carry this oversized candle. The flame is too close to his hair. If he walked too quickly, his head would catch fire–his own body would become fuel for the flame. And I wonder, how far could he actually go bearing this light? And where did he get it from? Was it a gift or did he buy it on purpose? How long has he had it? Can this candle stay lit in the rain? And I wonder, does he ever set it down to do other things? Is he able to enjoy the gift of night, to sleep in the darkness with the candlelight dancing on his bedroom walls.? And I wonder, would you like to be in his shoes, carrying a light so large? Would you like to carry it with him?
And I wonder, what if we re-imagine Han’s drawing, and picture this large light not in the little man’s arms, but inside of him instead. What if the drawing is an external projection of the light that burns and glows inside of him? And what if we imagine that this light burns and glows inside of every person? Inside each of us? And what if we believed that this light is eternal, shining and burning from before time began and beyond all time? And what if we believed that this light is transcendent, divine, that it is produced by the life of God, of Jesus, of Holy Spirit?
And I wonder, what would your life be like, how would you be, how would you regard yourself if you believed that you were twice born, once from your parents, and then re-born from God, from Jesus the Christ, from Holy Spirit? Re-born because God desires it for you and wills it for you and causes it to happen to you. What would it be like for you to know and remember that the life and the light in you are the very life and light of God in your flesh, in your body?
Eternal. Inexhaustible. Unquenchable. Life and light. In us, and in our daily dance with that which is not life-giving and not light-producing, that which we call darkness. God’s life and light in us always dancing with the brokenness, in the tangled webs we weave, in the sin and evils that constantly threaten to suffocate life and extinguish the light.
And I wonder, what could happen if we trusted that God’s life and light and love in us and in the world cannot be overcome by anything or anyone? And what could happen if we trusted that we are re-born from and carriers of the divine life and light we see manifested in the person of Jesus, the Christ? And what if we imagined that this life and light and love are disproportionately huge and improbably more powerful than we could ever feel, think, or imagine? And I wonder, would you like to be in the shoes of this little man with the long arms carrying this too-large burning candle everywhere he goes? Would you like to carry it with him? And I wonder, what more becomes possible, by the grace and love of God, as we enter this new year bearing God’s life and light together?