In thinking about holding out the hope and waiting for the coming of the King and his kingdom, I came across the following story during my sermon preparation and thought it important to share it here. The story is about a Rabbi named Hugo Grynn. As a child, he and his family were sent to the labour camp at Auschwitz. In the middle of that tragedy and horror Grynn’s father and family (as did many of the Jewish families in that place) tried to hold on to as many of the Jewish customs as they could. One particularly cold night at the start of Hanukkah, Grynn’s father called the family together. When they were assembled, he took a pat of butter, the last bit of food the family had, and took a string from his own ratty jacket and fashioned a crude candle from them. As he lit the candle Hugo objected and said to his father, “That butter was the last bit of food we have. How are we going to live now?” in reply his father said to him, “We can live for many days without food... we cannot live one minute without hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere.”
For me, that is what John the Witness does for the people of Israel. He holds out the light; he reflects the light of the One who is the Light. He is like a roadside sign posts that light up in the darkness as the headlights of a vehicle fall upon it. The light is not his; it does not belong to him. He works to reflect what is not his so that the One can be seen and known. He reflects the hope and the joy and the confidence in God that all of us want and need in our own walks with God. This is a moment to be of good courage and full of joy because the One who is the Light is coming.
And one of things that I take from the story of Hugo and his father is that there is a real need to hold out that light, not just for self but more so to help others. We need the light the path by holding out the hope that is ours in Christ so that others can see and know it. Jesus came not only so that we can have love and peace and joy and all those other good things that we want for ourselves and for others. Jesus came that we might know him and through him know our heavenly Father. Jesus came that we might see and experience the heart of the Father and thus Jesus is the visible, audible Word and presence to us so that we might know the invisible, transcendent Father.
Such an upholding of light and hold out of faith for others requires patience on our part. The Church is not meant to be a refrigerator, keeping the faithful perfectly chilled for that moment of redemption. It is meant to be a womb which gives life and birth to new believers. It is messy, painful, and even a bit bloody and dangerous at times. Yet it is all worth it. We have something in our lives with Christ that they world is seeking and wants, even if they cannot describe it. They know that they need hope. They know that they need God even though they often don’t know how to express it. This season is the moment when the world is most opening to hearing about Jesus and the kingdom that he brings. Let us take this moment, this week and hold out our candles for all to see it. Let’s go light God's world.