Pastor’s Pen Holiday Lamplighter 2015
Dear Holy Trinity family,
On Christ the King Sunday we had a Seeing Eye pup-in-arms at 8:45 worship. Aurora, a lab retriever mix, is so young she was wrapped in a baby blanket and her little paws were never allowed to touch the floor. On the first Sunday in Advent we had a full-fledged Seeing Eye dog at 8:45 worship. Gabby is our friend Jane’s new companion. After worship Jane greeted me by name, then reached out to touch my face, running her fingers over my forehead, nose, cheeks, chin. “You haven’t changed at all!” she said.
I’ve always been amazed at how little Jane’s lack of physical vision handicaps her and how much she “sees.” She worshiped with us one Easter Sunday and on the way out commented on the beauty of the flowers on the window ledges. She then told me their names – she identified them by their fragrance alone! I always “see” more when Jane is with us – because she is so perceptive, she challenges me to observe, really observe, with all my senses.
The absence of sight has sharpened Jane’s other four senses. Her spiritual vision is her most amazing asset, though. Speaking with our youth, Jane always emphasizes that her physical blindness has brought a gift: the inability to judge others by appearance. Jane reminds me of that beloved quote from Antoine St. Exupery’s book The Little Prince: “Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Somehow these December nights have seemed darker than I remember from previous years. Maybe it’s because I have the very, very early beginning of cataracts; maybe it’s because of recent acts of terrorism; maybe it has to do with sadness over loved ones’ illness and passing. I was present at a funeral home recently when the Guarini family sang “What a Wonderful World,” in celebration of the well-lived, full-of-wonder life of Mike’s father, Michael Sr. The second verse includes a reference to “the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.” The dark sacred night – what a beautiful reminder that night, too, holds gifts.
We would never consciously choose to experience the difficult times that seem to “darken” our lives and that certainly complicate them. But isn’t it true that when we look back, we realize those hard days taught lessons that couldn’t have been learned in any other classroom?? Some things are more evident at night, because our other four senses are sharpened: the fragrance of honeysuckle on a warm summer evening; the sound of rain on the roof as I lie in bed; the velvet loveliness of a cat’s fur; the sweetness of s’mores enjoyed around a campfire – or the saltiness of tears shed alone in the dark.
During Advent we prepare to welcome the Light of the world! As we await the full coming of the Light in the midst of the darkness, may our loving Lord deepen our spiritual vision. Just as we look up into the sky to appreciate the stars, shining out most brightly on the darkest of nights, let’s look to heaven especially when “dark,” difficult times hem us ‘round. Recall the beautiful words of Psalm 139, verses 11-12:
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Or how about this lovely verse from the hymn “My Life Flows On in Endless Song” (ELW 763)?
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth.
Hold these “Christmas” verses from St. John’s Gospel close to your heart:
What has come into being in [Jesus Christ] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:3-5)
As Advent progresses and Christmas nears, let us accompany each other along the Way. Let us pray, as we sing in the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul,” that the “Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight….” May the eyes of our soul see as much as our friend Jane perceives.
Finally, a reminder from the First Letter of John, chapter 1, verse 5:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
In the name of Christ, the Light of the world,
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham