John Wesley had returned from the colony of Georgia in the new world as a clergyman of the Church of England and missionary to the native Americans. He returned to England disillusioned and disgraced. Wesley found himself in the midst of a spiritual crisis, a crisis of faith. Shortly after his return, he stumbled across an old friend, a Moravian pastor and missionary, Peter Boehler. Wesley poured out his anguish to Boehler. Peter Boehler’s words of advice to Wesley were words that pointed to hope. Boehler advised Wesley to preach faith until he recovered it for himself. And this is what Wesley did. A few months later, Wesley recorded in his journal about his “Aldersgate” epiphany, where he had – as I like to say – a Holy Ghost moment. Wesley’s faith was not only restored, but his zeal for the ministry was rekindled.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet offers similar advice, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” It does not mean to put on a mask and pretend. Rather, it means to live into that virtue until it becomes part of you. Wesley lived into faith and preached it. He opened himself to the Holy Spirit which led him to recovered that which he felt he had lost.
It is quite human to find one’s self in a dark corner of life. We all have had seasons of despair with a sense of abandonment, or loneliness, or forlornness. If you have been fortunate not to have lived through a rough patch in this life, chances are one day you will in some way, shape, or form. So I commend to you in this season of Advent, remembering and anticipating the coming of Christ, the words of the prophet Isaiah: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined (Isaiah 9:2).
If you find yourself walking in the shadows this season of Advent as Christmas approaches, sisters and brothers, you have seen the light of Christ in your life: through your baptism, through Christian fellowship and worship, through your generosity and kindnesses. Remember that light and know that it still shines and that it shines for you. Indeed, it is still within you.
As a pastor, I too know the feeling of dwelling in the shadows that this life may cast upon us. But beloved, even in such dark moments, we are still called to testify and point to the light for our own sakes, for those dear to us, and those who need desperately to hear that the light still shines for them.
We have journeyed together as pilgrims seeking the light of Christ these past 3 years. At times for many of us, the light has seemed to flicker, perhaps even seemed missing as we have endured the pandemic, illnesses, tragedy, and loss. But we have also had seasons of joy experiencing the miracle of Christ’s love in our lives. The light of Christ is here among us. Will you join me as we walk in Christ’s light in this season praying for peace within ourselves and for the world in which we live?