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God's Reflectors
a sermon based on Colossians 1:11-20
by Rev. Randy Quinn

No one’s surprised anymore when the seasons shift in early November. Even before Thanksgiving it happens. And its changing all around us right now. The lights are getting strung up again. The TV ads are practically filling our stockings hanging over the mantle with goodies. And tannenbaums will soon be putting smiles on our boy scouts. The season, it is a changin’.

Liturgically, of course, the church changes in a different way. We begin by preparing ourselves in what we call "Advent." But before Advent begins, we stop and remind ourselves who Jesus is, why it is that he came in the first place and what it means to know he is still coming.

Lest we begin to celebrate his coming without recognizing the purpose, our texts for today call to mind his death, resurrection, and eternal reign as King of the universe and Head of the church.

On Tuesday of this week, I will conduct a funeral. It will be the 100th time I've done this as a pastor. At each of those 100 funerals, I began with the belief that we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). For some, that image was easy to recognize. For others, it was clearly a tarnished image. But always, I looked for the reflection of God in their life.

The other night I was out taking a walk. It was dark, but there was enough moon light and star light for me to see where I was going. But then a strange thing happened. Suddenly, a road sign began to glow. I hadn't even noticed the sign before, now suddenly it was easy to see and easy to read. That's when I noticed that a car was coming down the road. I couldn't hear it yet. And it's lights hadn't affected my vision of the road in front of me, but the sign had taken what little light was offered and somehow magnified it so that both the driver of the car and I could see it better.

I don't understand how, but I know that there is a special reflective coating on most road signs that makes them easier to see. What I witnessed was that coating at work. I've also seen signs where the coating is worn off, worn out, or used up. Those signs seem to be somehow darker than signs without any coating. It's as if they absorb the light rather than reflect it. They seem to reflect the darkness better than the light. They need to be repainted or replaced.

I don't need to remind you that the world in which we live is dark. There is death and destruction. There is injustice and despair. There are thieves and robbers. There is insensitivity to the needs of others. You and I are like road signs in a dark world. We have each been created by God to reflect God's glory. We are all born in the image of God so that we might reflect who God is to those around us.

In the world in which we live, there is a great need for people like us to reflect the light of God's love. We need to be like the road signs that point toward the good news of God's peace, God's justice, God's joy. But sin has come into our lives and we've become like the darkened signs; our coating is worn off or worn out. Instead of reflecting the nature of God, we absorb all the light coming our direction and reflect the darkness around us rather than the light of God.

Paul invites us to look at Jesus to have our coating renewed, to be reconciled with God so that we might more effectively reflect the glory of God.

Of course, all this is metaphorical. There isn't a source of light that comes from God to us that we reflect back. Yet light has been a powerful symbol of God's presence. During Advent, we will use light to remind us of God's coming to our dark world.

But in fact, God is invisible. We cannot see God with our eyes. We can only "see" God with our hearts. God's light is like love. It isn't something you can see or touch but you know it's real. Our reflections of God are seen by others in the things we do out of love. Paul reminds us that there is a difference between the way Jesus reveals God's glory and how we reflect that glory.

In my High School physics class, I remember doing experiments with light. I learned about real light and imaginary light. Real light had its own source, it created shadows. Imaginary light only reflected light from another source, it could not create a shadow.

Look in a mirror sometime. You can see a light bulb's reflection, but that reflection will never create a shadow. It's only imaginary light. The light bulb itself, will naturally create shadows. It's real light.

Jesus is the true light, illumining everyone and everything (Jn 1:9). We are only reflecting this source of light. Jesus is the true and complete image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), we are at best a reflection of that image.

Some time ago, I read about a new type of light bulb being designed by engineers. Most light bulbs have a filament in them that glows when electricity flows through them. Florescent bulbs have gas filaments that glow when electricity flows through them. The problem is that the filaments go bad. These new bulbs are like reflectors that respond to radio waves rather than electrical charges.

God, who is invisible, is like the radio waves. They cannot be seen, but their effects are all around us. They transmit signals to our radios and televisions. They are used by ships and planes to navigate around obstacles. They turn our TV's on and off. And they can be used to cook our foods in microwave ovens. And perhaps we will soon see light bulbs that glow in response to radio signals.

The fact that we cannot see them doesn't make them any less real. But somehow we have a more difficult time understanding a God who is invisible. We want to see God. We want to hear the voice of God. We want to touch God. And in response to our needs, God came to us in human form, in the life and body of Jesus.

But where we see most clearly the image of God is in his death. For God in Jesus gave himself completely for us and to us. In dying he revealed to us the true nature of God. In his death, we witnessed the true light of God.

In our own preparations for Christmas, Ronda and I purchased a devotional book filled with stories and meditations on the hymns and carols and Biblical accounts of Jesus' birth.

One of the devotions begins by asking which is more important in the life of the church, Christmas or Easter. My response is quick: Easter.

The devotional guide suggests that both are equally important, that without Christmas, there can be no Easter and without Easter, Christmas has no meaning. I still maintain that Easter is more important. I base my answer on the fact that neither Mark nor John refer to Jesus' birth in their gospel accounts and Paul never mentions Christmas in any of his letters. It's Easter that defines who we are as Christians, it's Easter that makes us the church.

In his death, we witnessed the true light of God illumining for us the nature of God's kingdom and the promise of God's reign in our lives. Christ is coming. But it's also true that Christ has come. Jesus will reign as King. But it's also true that Jesus already reigns as King.

It's our task to reflect these truths. It's our task to point others to the true light of God, the real light that illumines us in a dark and dreary world. Thanks be to the invisible God who is reflected in the lives of people like you and like me. Amen.