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Interfaithfully Speaking: Three lights left on

Rev. Mark Wiley, Claremont United Methodist Church

 

We are well into the new year. But they left their Christmas lights on. They were the only house in the neighborhood with lights still twinkling. Well, several neighborhoods really. Maybe even the last Christmas lights in Claremont.

Most homes were dark. Most folks had taken down their lights and boxed them up for another year. Or, at the very least, turned off the lights. The Christmas sales were long past. The aisles that held Christmas gifts and ornaments now held Valentine’s Day chocolates and heart shaped cards. But this house still blazed with red and green lights, even a few decorations.

Maybe, though not likely, they had forgot to turn them off. Maybe they were too busy doing other things and would soon turn them off. Maybe they liked being different, doing things by their own timetable, or maybe it was a witness. Christmas is more than just a day or even a season. Whatever their reason, their lights got me thinking.

What kind of witness are we making in the new year? Where are we making a stand against the night and the forces of evil? Is there any place in our lives where we have intentionally left the lights on when our family and neighbors have closed their doors and turned off the lights? Who are the lights in our lives that make our hearts lighter? Here are three of my lights that are still on.

In October the kids at our church “Whatever Wednesday” program wrote “welcome” with sidewalk chalk by our church’s front door. They used every color imaginable to write “welcome” in seven different languages. Then one of them changed the rules and wrote, “Have fun in church. God.” 

Welcome is more than a handshake at the front door but a place that brings joy. It’s been months, and the words have mostly faded now, but we still remember. 

It’s been 50 years—half a century—since Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Racism, both personal and institutional, is still with us. In many ways, it’s even stronger. Or at least messier. 

We dare not ever turn out his light because there is still so much to do. His light was so bright, we not only saw the racism hiding in the shadows of power but saw glimpses of racism in our own shadows.

Mr. King once said that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. He was not only saying that all humanity is interconnected, he was saying that our own well being as individuals and society are impoverished and harmed by all acts of injustice.

I find myself wondering if he had lived in our world of tweets, posts and selfies, would he be reminding us that doing harm to others harms us as well? Would he remind us that demeaning others builds neither your character nor does it bring justice to the country?

One of our church members died recently. He loved Christmas. Okay, he was Christmas fanatic. There wasn’t anything about Christmas he didn’t like. He appreciated the presents, decorations, lights and carols. He was known for having more than his fair share of the Christmas cookies. But what really made Christmas special for him was that it was when everyone else caught up to how he lived throughout the entire year.

He was not naive. He had suffered tragedies beyond those the word “horrific” could contain. His medical issues were not only never ending but complicated. He knew that life was not fair. But he also knew one cannot truly make themselves stronger by lamenting what could have been. He was also always concerned about the well being of others. He knew that our souls grow healthier when we build up others

Three lights left on. All year. We have heart lights for us to live by. Nightlights to chase away, and even engage, the shadows. Christmas lights to remind us keep joy and wonder the entire year.