One of the things that amazes me about God’s creation is that each human life is so wonderfully unique. Even if we are born in multiples, there is something special and different about every one of us. We each have a specific set of genes and personality traits. We have an array of physical, mental and spiritual capacities. We come from different times, cultures, environments and family situations, giving us a wide variety of perspectives on life. And, as we are all human, we each have our own unique set of imperfections.
In the conclusion of his classic book ‘The World’s Religions,’ Huston Smith says that one way of thinking about the different faith traditions of the world is to compare them to “a stained glass window, whose sections divide the light of the sun into different colors.” He points out that “For God to be heard and understood, divine revelations would have to be couched in the idioms of its respective hearers.” Each religion reflects how it understands God in it’s own way. I think this beautiful analogy applies to individual believers as well.
For Christians, Jesus is our pure light. He shines through us when we follow his teachings and share his goodness in the world. Our unique imperfections limit our capacity to shine Jesus’ light perfectly, but we have been given the light to shine, anyway, through the grace of an almighty God who is light, and who has overcome the darkness. As the perfect light shines through our imperfections, we become like prisms, refracting God’s light into a beautiful rainbow of unique colors.
We don’t have the right to tell other believers what color their lights should be. We don’t have the right to tell another color it should be our color. We just have the right to shine our own lights in the best way we can–whatever color that may be–and to come together with as many others as we can, so others may see the beauty of God’s light.
The Reverend Dr. James Forbes, Pastor Emeritus of Riverside Church in New York, preached at Shiloh Baptist in Washington, DC this past Sunday. He pointed out that Christmas comes in winter. No matter how cold, bleak or difficult our surroundings may seem at any given time, it’s all just background–darkness–that will be shined away by the light of the world who came as a baby in a manger. That child is our Messiah, who overcame the world some 2,000 years ago.
Darkness will not overcome our world, our country, our cities or our communities as long as we let Jesus’ light shine through us. Our beautiful spectrum of bright colors will confuse the darkness! There is nothing more powerful than Jesus, who dwells in us. Nothing. That means we need not be afraid of a misogynistic, intolerant, power hungry and greedy tyrant–like King Herod– no matter how much power he may seem to hold, and no matter how many others may seem to follow him. Together, the spectrum of light that shines through us will simply blind him, and it will bind him.
Let’s celebrate Christmas with the great joy that our God has given us, in solid faith that this world can’t take it away. Let’s tell the world by our words and actions–all through the year– Merry Christmas!