St. Andrew’s Church
Advent and Christmas 2021
Just before moving from Cape Breton in 1977 some friends and I had the chance to visit Princess Colliery in Sydney Mines. We were taken in “the cage” (an elevator with wire mesh instead of solid sides) to the top of the slope, some 680 feet below the surface. At one point during the tour, to give us a feeling for the actual working conditions, we were instructed to stay where we were. All the lights were turned off. I knew that there were about fifteen other people around me, but I couldn’t see a thing. For most of us this was the first time in our lives when there was absolutely no visible object for a reference point. The darkness seemed to swallow us up. I’m sure many had the fleeting thought, “this must be what it’s like to be blind”. Some of us felt anxiety and fear in the complete darkness. There are moments in our lives that seem like an eternity. The miner who was giving the tour then switched on his lamp. That single ray of light was one of the most welcoming and reassuring sights I have ever seen. As each of us in turn switched our lamps on we could see where the others were standing and some of the nearby obstacles. The image of that single miner’s lamp has come back to me many times. For me, especially at times of stress or anxiety, this represents the light of Christ guiding my spiritual journey.
In chapter one of the fourth gospel, St. John describes Jesus as a light coming into a dark world. Jesus, both divine and human, brought the light of God to enrich our relationships with each other and our world. As that light burned brightly, people began to see God’s ways with greater clarity and vision. Some felt empowered to spread the good news about Jesus to others. His life has been a beacon to millions of people. For almost two thousand years his life has enlightened and touched countless lives. How can we spread this light?
One woman from a former parish was known for her “Sunshine Basket”. This basket was filled with small gifts from the ACW group and taken to someone who was going through a difficult time. Each day the recipient would open one gift and realize that the larger community was thinking and praying for them. The woman who carried out this ministry was a genuinely caring person who took the time to really listen. At times when a person is feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances of their life, such genuine companionship helps to shed a ray of hope.
With this Christmas season I’m asking each of us to think of how to spread this light. Be aware of the words you say to your children, your spouse, or your relatives. Think of ways you can help your community and church. The flame may be kindled in you, but the light and warmth will radiate to others. As we move through the pandemic, with all its limitations, we are called to creative ways to embody the light.
“Receive the light of Christ, to show that you have passed from darkness to light.” These are the words heard by the candidates for Holy Baptism as they are presented with their candles lit from the Paschal Candle. The congregation then encourages the newly baptized with the words, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Through our baptism, the light of Christ transforms our lives and invites us to share that difference with others by the way we live.
At Christmas we are reminded that we were not left alone in our darkness. God is always with us. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (St. John 1:9) As we gather for our Christmas Eucharist with family and friends, the glorious dawn of Christ’s birth brings us closer to each other. May Jesus, born of Mary, brighten our lives with his light and life.
A Blessed Christmas to all,