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Sunday, April 20, 2014
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One Day of Clarity - Luke 2:9

“…the glory of the Lord shown around them…”


Four days after Christmas 1995 Donny Herbert, a Buffalo, New York, fire fighter suffered an injury that left him comatose for 9 ½ years.  He was minimally conscious, unaware of his surroundings and unable to communicate.  His sons were 14, 13, 11 and 3 years old when he slipped into unconsciousness.  Then the baffling and incredible happened.  After 9 ½ years on one day suddenly Donny woke up.  For sixteen hours he spoke virtually non-stop, catching up with his sons who had become men, his wife and his friends among firefighters.  Then he slipped back into a similar state of unconsciousness.  He finally slipped away forever in 2006.

His sixteen-hour revival astonished everyone.  Some attributed it to a cocktail of drugs he was taking.  Other credited prayer.  His wife assigned the miracle to his will to communicate with his family one more time.  For whatever reason, he had one day of clarity - a day when he was fully conscious and aware.

Once a year the world has a day of clarity, December 25.  Everything stops in much of the world.  Families gather.  Business stands still.  Traffic clears.  Grudges are forgotten; friends remember one another and many think about the Baby Whose birth created the day of clarity.  The year provides one day when the human race briefly wakes up from the narcotic of brutal, competitive, uncaring, alienated, obsessive stupor.  Even the grouchiest, touchiest and most isolated seem to be better for one day, December 25.  It is a day of sudden clarity and then the world slips back.  But it is at least one day of clarity.

In 1868 Boston Episcopal preacher Phillips Brooks quickly wrote an immortal carol.  You know the words by heart:  "above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.... the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."  Bethlehem and all the world after that one night sleep in an unconscious torpor, unaware of much more than surviving another day.  Hope and fear met in the street of Bethlehem.  Herod wore the face of fear and Mary the visage of hope.  Then for a few moments the world woke up.  Shepherds jumped fences, kings marched, angels sang and there was a moment of clarity.  It is the clearest moment humanity ever experienced.

I stood outside Bethlehem for the first time in 1971.  It was Christmas Eve after dark.  A knot of tourists from around the world sang Phillips Brooks' carol.  Around us were Israeli soldiers with bayonets fixed to protect us from nearby threat.  That put in stark relief the clarity that the Baby brought and the reality of the world that forgot the Baby.  This Christmas we feel the same way.  Christians sing about one bright night of clarity while the world circles around with fixed bayonets.  1971 or 2007, the same.  We need the clarity that Baby brings.  Even a day of that clarity is good.

Wake up.  Clear up.  Speak up.  It is Christmas.


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