Bringing in the Light, Service with Rev. John Harley 6.12.2020

Intro Music: Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre

Bringing in the light. 

What inspiration can we draw from Advent, 

Hannukah and the darkness?

Opening words

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever you bring to our circle, whoever you love, you are welcome here

whatever your journey is like, whether you are searching for peace or strength or community, whether you hurt in this moment or your spirit dances or feel you can tackle the world

Come into this family of hope and friendship

You are welcome here
Words for our chalice lighting

Amid all the noise in our lives By Tim Haley

Amid all the noise in our lives

we take this moment to sit in silence

to give thanks for another day;

to give thanks for all those in our lives who have brought us warmth and love;

to give thanks for the gift of life.

We know we are on our pilgrimage here but a brief moment in time.

Let us open ourselves, here, now, to the process of becoming more whole

of living more fully; of giving and forgiving more freely;

of understanding more completely the meaning of our lives here on this earth.

Hymn: These Festive Days – performed by Karl and Mark

(83 In Green book)

These Festive Days, G.83

Our festival is here again

To lift the darkening year

And celebrate the Feast of Lights

‘Mid glow of Christmas cheer.

For not alone was Jesus sought

By wise men from afar:

The joy of other hallowed births

Glows with the wondrous star.

And Hanukkah is freedom’s shrine

To all ‘neath tyranny

The lamps are lit within our hearts

For faith can make us free.

Joy to the world these festive days

Nowhere may hope be dim:

And as the gladsome spirit glows

Sing carol, song and hymn

Christmas Tree dressing – Karl and Mark


The lighting up of the Christmas tree will be echoed by the Jewish festival of Hannukah – from 10-18 December – their festival of lights -the word Hanukkah means rededication and commemorates the Jews' struggle for religious freedom.
History of Hannukah

The festival marks the phenomenal victory of a group of Jews called the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, the most powerful army of the ancient world.

At the end of the three-year war, the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and rededicated the temple.

When the Maccabees rededicated the temple, they discovered a single cruse of oil with the seal of the High Priest still intact.

When they came to light the eight-branched temple candelabrum, the menorah, they had enough oil to last only a day.

But the menorah miraculously stayed alight for eight days. This became known as the miracle of the oil.

So Hannukah is a time to celebrate a miracle.

How do you interpret the word miracle in your life?

The American poet Walt Whitman wrote this in the 19th century – he was incredibly ahead of his time

Miracles by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


(42) The Swingles – O Come, O Come Emmanuel - YouTube


The word advent comes from the Latin term adventus meaning "arrival" or "coming," particularly the coming of something having great importance.

"The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Matthew Kelly wrote the prayer

"God of hope, I look to you with an open heart and yearning spirit. During this Advent season, I will keep alert and awake, listening for your word and keeping to your precepts. My hope is in you."

We are in the countdown to the shortest day of the year – the day when the light of spring starts inch by inch to return to our lives – the winter solstice– a celebration of the sun of God as in the celestial star - and later reframed by Christians as preparation for the coming of the Christ

Advent teaches us patience to stay in the dark – to make friends with the dark – until the light returns….

The Nourishing Dark – a meditation by Richard S Gilbert

Candles of Joy and Concern

Reading: I saw a great light come down over London by Jay Ramsay


This poem has a feeling of advent to it – that line about not knowing but knowing – we know something special is going to arrive but sometimes it is difficult to feel the wonder and vastness of it – day to day life can be stressful and we can forget to look up and look around and see beauty

This phenomenon of seeing this great light in the sky reminded me of the other night – there was a full moon – it seemed unbelievably bright – and like a vision from another world

A film that made a huge impact on me in the late 70s was Close Encounters of the Third Kind – it’s got an amazing end when the immense UFO swoops down and our hero played by Richard Dreyfus goes up into the spacecraft and is taken away

There’s a song by the band Radiohead in which the lyrics explore the feeling of wanting a UFO to rescue us from boredom – the song is called Subterranean Homesick Alien

Here is a clip

Subterranean Homesick Alien – Radiohead (just 2.00min to 3.00min)

The song goes

I wish they'd swoop down in a country lane

Late at night while I'm driving
Take me on board of their beautiful ship
Show me the world as I'd love to see it
I'd tell all my friends

But they'd never believe me
They'd think that I'd finally lost it completely
I'd show them the stars

And the meaning of life
They'd shut me away
But I'd be all right
All right

I wonder if part of the human experience is to imagine a different reality outside ourselves – and to dream about it – some world that might take us away from ordinariness and everydayness – maybe this feeling has parallels with belief in God – some entity bigger, wider than our own experience

I know that during the first lockdown some people caught glimpses of the awesomeness of nature and life – some city dwellers had an experience of grace and being blessed – seeing clear skies and breathing in clean air and no traffic for the first time in their lives. For some it was as if they had noticed the beauty of their surroundings for the first time. Maybe the pandemic has for some people stopped them craving for another life somewhere else but helped them appreciate the sacred contained in their own back yard and under their noses

I was listening to the radio in May and one London resident said the lockdown reminded him of a poem by William Wordsworth
Wordsworth Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Advent is a time of joyful anticipation – in the darkness we wait for the light of the world to come –many of us have got used to the feeling of waiting throughout this extraordinary year – waiting to see loved ones, waiting to hug again, waiting for normality whatever that looks like, Waiting to roam again freely – and now we are waiting for the vaccines to be rolled out..Advent is a Waiting for light in our lives to return.

This advent I wanted to ask you where you receive your light from? Some people are drawn to celebrities for inspiration – it is no coincidence that famous actors are called stars – they have a shine but stars do fall as well – or do you get your light from connection with nature or from prayer? I want to show you a stunning painting by Geertgen tot Sins Jans a Dutch painter called Nativity.

this was a ground-breaking painting in its day – there are no riches or finery for the baby Jesus and Mary looks very real with her exquisite expression of wonder and fear of what might come – the artist Sins Jans was a master of handling light – notice the only 3 light sources in the painting – the angel in the sky, the fire and most of the light radiates from the Christ child. These are light sources that we may wish to reflect on in our lives – how much time do we have to consider the angelic – the inspiration we receive from realities beyond this world – the sacred, the unknown – then there is the fire – the light and warmth we get from the elements and the earth – and our relationship with the land – and then there is the brilliance of the baby – and the simple precious intimacy between child and mother – my interpretation of this is Sins Jans is celebrating the majesty of the human connection and love right at the heart of life. Does this touch the heart of advent – and in particular this advent we find ourselves in at the end of this crazily challenging year of 2020 – in the darkness we are waiting for the joy of human touch to return, freedom to feel the warmth of friends and family again and to rediscover what flows from our source. I will leave you with some words by the Sufi mystic Hafiz who encourages us to know the brightness of our own unique inner light and not lose sight of this

I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!

Song: This Little Light of Mine

By Sam Cooke

Final words

Share Your Glorious Light with the World

By James Morison

Within each of our hearts there is a most glorious light.
Go forth, and let its spark help you understand what troubles both you and others;
Go forth, and let its light of reason be a guide in your decisions;
Go forth, and bring its ray of hope to those in need of help in both body and spirit, that they may find healing;
Go forth, and fan the flames of passion to help heal our world;
Go forth, and spread the warm glow of love, pushing back the darkness of the world;
Go forth, and share your glorious light with the world.

Music: My Baby Cares for Me by Nina Simone

Notices and coffee