the second sunday of christmas

the Prayer of the Day
Reflecting the light begin and ends with the light!

Ninety-five weeks in the wilderness! One year, nine months! In between! No longer, but not yet! Sometimes, in person; more often, online! But after all that time, our worship’s fallen into a pattern, a rhythm. A Readers’ Digest version of the way it used to be! Before the pandemic! Each time, we begin with a brief order. Confession-and-Forgiveness. Thanksgiving-for-Baptism. We sing a song. A gathering song. We share a greeting. Me with you! You with me! And then, we say a prayer. More preface, actually. Prologue. Preamble. It’s purpose is to tune our eyes and ears to see and hear the readings and sermon that follow. “Let us pray,” I say. Then, I offer up the words. Not so much to god, as to each other! When I’m done, it’s your responsibility to say, “Amen! Amen! This is most certainly true!” With that, we move on to the reading and the sermon.

But I have to admit, most Sundays, I have absolutely no idea what I just prayed. I read the words. I go through the motions. But my mind’s a blank. I might catch a phrase or two. Something that piques my interest. Usually, for a few moments. Then, it passes. This morning, though – this week – it was different. It stayed with me! Ate at me!

Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ … blah, blah, blah … yada, yada, yada ….

It was that second, middle part – the petition – that stuck with me: “By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do ….” That’s the reason we prayed that prayer, this morning. To ask for god’s grace to empower us to reflect the light of god’s Word made flesh-and-blood! Problem is, I don’t think that’s how reflecting works!

If I’m not mistaken, the power to reflect is in the power to shine! It’s, simply, the light bouncing off something that gets in its way! Take the moon, for instance … there’s nothing in it that gives it the “power” to reflect the sunlight! Nothing innate! Inherent! The power’s in the sun itself! Blazing! Afire! If there’s no sunlight, the moon doesn’t reflect! The moon can’t reflect! There’s nothing to reflect! The same’s true of planets, comets, even the International Space Station! They reflect light for one reason and for only one reason … because the sun shines! And for a moment, when they’re in just the right place, they reflect the sun. Not by decision. Not by choice. By accident. By chance. No special talent! No superpower! No practice! No rehearsal! It’s just happens!

And reflecting the light of the incarnate Word? It’s, pretty much, the same! Being in the right place, at the right time! Getting in the way! And for a moment, we shine! And if we’re not in the right place, at the right time. Well, fortunately for us … fortunately for the world … Jesus moves! Jesus moves!

We love to make it all so difficult! Being the church, that is. Believing. Truth is, it’s really pretty easy! It’s trusting god! No more! No less! Trusting god to be god! Trusting god to love! Love for no good reason! Sure, we need to hear the story! Over and over! Again and again! We need to hear who god is! What god’s done! What god’s still doing! And the story does the rest! Calling us! Claiming us! Bringing us together! Inspiring us! Moving us! Changing us! We do nothing; the story does it all! But then, that’s how love works!

We don’t have to ask for it! We don’t have to work for it! We don’t have to pray more or know the bible better or come to worship more often! It’s all love! Beginning to end! Start to finish! Like Paul tells the church in Corinth … We could speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels … We could have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge … We could have all faith so as to remove mountains … We could give away all we own … Hand our bodies over to be burned … And love might have nothing to do with it! With any of it! We might do it without ever knowing how much god loves us! Without ever knowing how much god cares! For each! For every! For one! For all!

The light is the love! A love that can only be reflected, not created! And I’m not talking about just god’s love! None of us can make anyone love us! There’s nothing we can do to kindle it! Nothing we can do to make it happen! Love is totally and completely beyond our control! That might be the reason we never seem to talk about it! All we can do, until love transpires, is watch … and wait … And when it does, all we can do is bask in its glow! Bask in its glow and, perhaps, if we’re lucky, reflect the light! Like the moon, there is no power required to reflect anything! It just happens! On its own! In its own time! In its own place! Only the light, only the love, has the power to do it!

We’re helpless! Powerless! Unless … until … the light – the love – chooses to shine! But the goodNews? While we watch and while we wait, god sees and god comes! As god has always seen and come! Just as god did when the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep! Just as god did when the Hebrews groaned under their slavery and their cry for help “rose up” to god! God sees and god comes! To the battered and broken! To the lowest and to the least! And god loves! Loves as god has always loved! Loves as god always will!

God loves and the light shines! And the greater the love, the brighter the light! And when it does, as it does, that light will be reflected! Naturally! Automatically! Not because anyone want to! Not because they have to! It’s reflected, simply, because it shines!

So, it’s the prayer of the day. And over the years, we’ll say that prayer. Again and again. And when we do, I hope you’ll stop … and wonder! I hope you’ll pause … and give thought! “By your grace empower us to reflect your light?” That’s not the way it works. My friends, the power is in the light! In the grace! In the love! And you and I do nothing more than happen to be in its way!

Midland Lutheran Church