A Season of Rebirth, Renewal, and Peace or (The Meaning of the Nativity and Christmas to a Young Episcopalian)


Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t just a physical visitation. It was a spiritual coming of Majesty. With the Incarnation and Nativity God’s Light was shone. His Light was shone on dark hearts. It was necessary for darkness to dwell in our hearts so God’s Light could find a dwelling to rest, shining forth Light on our entire beings. Remember, our hearts, in Hebraic poetry is our ENTIRE being, not our physical hearts.

And not only was that Light to shine forth in our entire lives, it shines forth FROM our lives.

Our light is ignited by THE Light!

Paul encourages his partner in the Faith, Titus, in chapter 2, verses 1-14, ” For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Emphasis mine).

This season to me is a time about births, our Savior’s own humble birth and the humble birth and re-birth we experience as His followers through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Salvation came to bring about TRAINING!

That means it is a on-going process. Salvation, rebirth, and renewal on on-going and continuing throughout the entirety of our Christian journey. The Spirit’s training brings about the piety that God desires of His followers.

The Light is manifested within us already. Shining through all the darkest depths of our hearts to change and develop them into areas illuminated by the strength of Salvation and the Light of Love

This is all taking place because in this season we celebrate the time of our Savior’s birth.

Without the grand design of God’s plan of salvation we would still be in wondering darkness filled with impiety and sin.

But God’s manifestation has come!

Our Light has been born!

Our hearts have illuminated!

God is purifying us in this time of renewal and rebirth to be His people, a people ZEALOUS for good works!

You know what I notice about that last verse in Titus?

The word people!

A PEOPLE!

We are God’s chosen. We are in community!

At Ascension’s Christmas Eve Holy Eucharist, we had candles at the end of the service that we all held. We started singing “Silent Night” and the usher walked down the nave’s main aisle and lite the person’s candle on the end who in turn would light the candle of the person on their right.

I find it a funny coincidence that those verses in Titus were also read for the public reading of Scripture for this service this night.

We were there to celebrate the coming of Light to darkness.

All the while it never hit me how powerful the image of our lighting each other’s candles were!

What a powerfully strong physical metaphor and reminder of what God’s Light does in our own lives.

Our lives have been taken from darkness into Light. God has walked down the aisle of our hearts and ignited our candles!

What are we to do in turn?

We are to turn to our neighbors and light theirs. We are A PEOPLE, COMMUNITY!

Jesus commanded us, “Be a light to the world” (paraphrase).

He also told us that we would do greater things then He! Why? Because we have the strength and promise of the Holy Spirit.

We are to, by the guidance of the Spirit and through prayer, go forth and light the candles that lay in darkness in the hearts of the world bringing the Peace of Heaven to those in the dark.

We have been touched by Peace in Christ’s birth. Our candles have been lite.

That Peace came into our hearts to bring serenity and salvation, truth and strength, and piety and righteousness.

We are to share this Peace, which by now you know IS Christ with the world.

Father Howard and Father Backus both spoke at the Christmas Eve Eucharist. They both made a point that this birth and renewal is accompanied with signs. That the narrative of the Advent and Christmas are filled with characters experiencing signs.

Father Howard made it strongly clear that those signs come from within community.

Community shining light on each other, lighting each other’s candles.

Community going forth to the world to light candles that lay in darkness as our own once did.

Community being zealous for good deeds, social justice, peace, reconciliation, and love.

But the warning we must follow is to not get trapped into the mentality that it is our own essence or our own light that does this lighting of other’s candles.

Our candles once laid in darkness too!

Our candles sometimes glow dimly!

The Light in our candles is the Light of Christ shining forth from the time of the Nativity.

I like Saint John’s writing in I John 4:7-15 because it is a fitting passage for this time of rebirth and lighting of candles in darkness:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (ESV, emphasis mine).

We are to be MANIFESTATIONS OF LIGHT for a world laying in the dark as the Love and Light of God was made manifest among us.

This song by Chris Rice, “Go Light Your World”, is a fitting example of what this time in the liturgical calender and Church year is about:

Go Light Your World
There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle, and makes his home

Carry your candle
Run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
And hold out your candle
For all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world
Take your candle and go light your world

Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister she’s been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle, without a flame

Carry your candle
Run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
And hold out your candle
For all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world
Take your candle and go light your world

Cause we are a family
Whose hearts are blazing
So lets raise our candles and light up the sky
Prayin to our Father in the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times

Carry your candle
Run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, deceived and
Hold out your candle
For all to see it
Take your candle and go light your world
Take your candle and go light your world

Hold our your candle
For all to see it
Take out your candle and go light your world
Take your candle and go light your world
Take your candle and go light your world

By Chris Rice

To drive the point further, David Crowder proclaims in SMS (Shine), “Shine your light so all can see it. Lift it up cause the whole world needs it. Love has come, what joy to hear it! He has overcome, he has overcome!”

With Christ light we CAN and SHALL overcome our own darkness and that of the world.

O God, who didst wonderfully create, and yet more wonderfully restore, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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About Joel

Joel is a 32 year old currently residing in the southeastern United States. His interests lay in philosophy and theology. He is a writer for The Christian Watershed.

2 thoughts on “A Season of Rebirth, Renewal, and Peace or (The Meaning of the Nativity and Christmas to a Young Episcopalian)

  1. Amen & Amen.This is a very thoughtful post. Interesting how you noted that, "It was necessary for darkness to dwell in our hearts so God's Light could find a dwelling." It speaks to the theological conundrum of whether, if humankind had not fallen out of Eden, would there have been an Incarnation. The Anglican answer is a resounding 'yes.' For God exists in relationship and God's love is such that it must be manifest here and now and not only in the clouds or apart from us— Emmanuel.My beloved Benedictine spiritual director shared an essay with us that presented the problematic concept that the name Lucifer means 'light-bearer.' But how could this possibly be? It becomes clearer if we consider how it is our sins that shed light upon the truth of who we are, much more fully than our virtues do. Still, a strange name for the Bible to call the devil, eh?And yes, I believe we are called to 'renounce impiety and worldly passions' as you so adroitly noted—this is becoming an unpopular opinion of late, especially, I fear, in our particular branch of the church catholic. The movement through modernity, postmodernity and now into wherever the hell we are now (post-postmodernity?) has left us afraid to make such bold statements. Discipline is no longer fashionable.'Jesus loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.'I for one am horrible at discipline but am working at it every day. That's why we need the Ancient Path (apropos blog title!)— and that's why we need the rituals, the symbolic actions and things like the candle lighting at your midnight mass; which I agree is a powerful and beautiful metaphor to watch as the light spreads throughout the church. Speaking of candles, I think you may appreciate this. Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

  2. i abhor that we never preach repentance and conviction the way it deserves. i abhor even more this ideology that all we have to do is love Christ and others and that's it. the call to follow Christ is SOOOOO much more then that. it requires and death to self and to our own wickedness! thanks again for your thoughts brother.

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