Light in the Darkness
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
2 Advent – 12/10/13
The Rev. Rosemary Beales
Yesterday, the sun set at 4:46 in the afternoon. Many of us were not even home yet when it got dark. Certainly, it was dark before we ate dinner.
Today, the sun rose at 7:16 in the morning. We have 9 hours, 30 minutes and 3 seconds of daylight today. And the days will keep getting shorter until the shortest day of the year – December 21, when we have 9 hours and 26 minutes of light. Then, little by little, minute by minute, the earth will begin to edge closer to the sun again, and little by little, minute by minute, the light will return.
I’m thinking about light because of the story we just heard about a man who was born blind — who had never seen the light — and how Jesus healed him. Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world,” gave this man the gift of vision.
I’m thinking about light today, also, because we are coming close to the feast of St. Lucy, or Santa Lucia, on December 13. The name “Lucy” means “light,” and St. Lucia is the special saint of those who desire clear vision.
St. Lucia was born near the year 300, in Sicily, an island to the south of Italy. But it’s in Sweden, a country in the far north of Europe, that her feast is especially celebrated. People in America remember Lucy, too, and students in JK-2 art classes spent all last week making special things to remind them of St. Lucia. We’ll talk about them in a minute, but first….
But first, I want to tell you all about Lucy — in fact, I want you to meet her!
(signal Lucy to enter)
This is our own “Lucy girl,” and just like the Lucy girls in Sweden, she is wearing a crown of candles on her head (the Kindergarten girls are wearing their own versions), a white gown, and a red sash. And look what she’s carrying – she’s carrying a tray because the tradition in Sweden is that the Lucy girl serves her whole family breakfast in bed. On the darkest morning of the year, the Lucy girl goes from room to room, lighting the way with the candles she wears on her head. She serves special cross-shaped buns called Lussekatter and sweet, milky coffee to her family. Behind her go the “star boys,” with their pointed hats and stars on sticks.
[K kids – crowns or girls; hats for boys.
1st graders – cut outs of Lucy and star boys]
Some of you might have read about these St. Lucia traditions in an American Girl book called “Kirsten’s Surprise.” But maybe you’re wondering, what do they have to do with the original Santa Lucia, long ago in Sicily?
Back when Lucia was born, it was against the law to be a Christian in Sicily. Christians had to hide their faith, or they could be arrested and even put to death. Lucia loved God enough to take that risk. She even visited the Christians who gathered in underground hiding places called the Catacombs. She took all the money that her family was saving for her wedding and spent it on food and clothing for people who were poor and persecuted. In order to keep her hands free to carry the food she brought them, Lucia wore candles on her head. Lucia had to be very careful so the rulers didn’t find out that she, too, was a Christian.
One day, though, they did find out, and Lucia was arrested. The rulers told her she could go free if she made a sacrifice to the Roman gods. But Lucia said she had already given away everything she owned as a sacrifice to Jesus, and now she was willing to give her life, too.
Lucia did give up her life, but that was not the end of her story. Hundreds of years after her death, she saved the people of Sweden from a terrible famine. Food was scarce, and everyone was hungry. On the darkest day of winter, they saw a boat sailing toward them. Instead of a dragon’s head like most Viking boats, though, they saw a beautiful maiden, dressed in white and glowing with a heavenly light. When the boat reached land, St. Lucia handed out huge sacks of wheat to all the people until the boat was empty. They would have bread to eat all winter long.
That’s why the people of Sweden love St. Lucia, and it’s one reason we remember her today. In the name of Jesus, the light of the world, she brought light to the people of Sicily and Sweden. She has brought light to us today.
I hope you’ll remember St. Lucia on her feast, and every day. When you share what you have with others, you, too, are letting your light shine. Like Lucy, you can shine as a light in the world to the glory of God. Amen.