I’ve mentioned before the sermons of Rev. Marianne Edgar Budde, rector of St. John’s Episcopal parish in Minneapolis. This past weekend, she completed a four-part sermon series, From Darkness to Light, presented during the four Sundays of Advent.
There is much to reflect on in Rev. Budde’s sermons and as I have re-read her sermon series in these last days of Advent, I have come back several times to a portion of the third sermon in the darkness and light series. Quoting two passages in Isaiah – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and “Those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined” – she asks how it is that we see the light. From where does the light come when the darkness seems so complete that hope is lost?
Rev. Budde gave one answer to that question, a beautiful one, saying:
No doubt there are countless ways, but here is one way: we hold the light for each other. By the grace of God, someone in the midst of every darkness is given the power to see light, or to trust in light, when all is dark. And that person holds it, carries it, keeps it alive until others see it, too, and together, they begin the long walk out of darkness.
Each of us, at times, is light bearer or light receiver. We have all had times when others “have held light for [us] when all was dark, who assured [us], or assure [us] now, that things will get better.” And each of us “have in the past or are now keeping the light alive for someone else.” Those actions – given and received may be quite small. As Rev. Budde observed, “what keeps most of us going in our darkest hours are the bearers of light closer in, the words of kindness spoken by a friend or stranger; a prayer offered when we are in pain; a phone call reaching through the shrouds of grief to remind us that we’re not alone; a courageous local leader taking a stand for justice.”
The truth she asks us to hold onto is a simple one:
[I]n the darkness of your life, there has been, and is now, light shining, held by others who love you, believe in you, and want only what is best for you. And in the darkness of another person’s life, you might be the light, or the one entrusted with the light that they need to see by. That’s how the light of God works in and through us. There are other ways that the light shines, to be sure, but this way is one that involves you and me directly.
We each, she concludes must accept both the blessing and responsibility that is our life – to hold onto the confidence that there is always light for us, even in the darkest times, remaining always open to receiving that light, and to look always for opportunities to be the bearer of light to others.
Note: you can find transcripts of Rev. Budde’s sermons here.