Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, a martyr in the early 300’s, a particularly brutal time of early Christian persecution. Although not much is known about the details of Lucy’s life, she was known for her purity of life and the gentleness of her spirit. Because of her name, meaning “light,” and her feast day being on what was the shortest day of the year for centuries, Lucy became associated with light. In Sweden, a young girl from the family dresses in pure white and wears a crown of lighted candles on her head. She serves her family special foods and in praise of her service, she is called Lucy for the day.
In the middle of Advent, celebrating Lucy is most appropriate. Advent is a season of dimmed lights – a vigil we hold as we await the bright light of the incarnate Christ. We tone down our liturgies, take on a more penitential tone, and spend more time in silence before God. At this time of year, the days shorten, dawn comes earlier every day, and we journey through John the Baptist’s message of repentance. In the midst of this darkness, we could all use a little light today.
Advent is tricky in this way. Advent calls us into a countercultural experience – as Christians we are to hold off on celebrating Christmas. I grew up in the faith tradition that did not guard Advent so stringently. When I settled in the Episcopal Church, I remember hating Advent at first. The music was drab, the liturgies felt dull. The rest of the world was frolicking in Christmas cheer and the Episcopal Church was closing that door for two more weeks! I remember thinking of the Episcopal Church as the “Debbie Downer” of Christmas.
Years later I came to appreciate the church’s gift of Advent. That focus on a modest, dimmed, quiet helps guide us in a secular world that tries to pull us from the true focus of Christmas. So we honor the shortened period of light on the earth. We slow down and redirect our lives, and we take on the yoke of waiting.
What Lucy does today is to encourage us on the journey with a bit of light. She does not turn up all the lights, but her candles give us an inkling of the blinding light of Christ that is to come into the world. Lucy gives us hope and comfort as her flickering flames light us through these last 10 days of Advent. Like Lucy, we too can be lights in the world that lead others to Christ and share the way to the path of salvation. Amen.