“What’s That Light?”
by the Rev. Dr. Bruce A. Havens
Coral Isles Church
December 25, 2022
John 1 selected verses NRSV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
A few years ago I met a man who told me an interesting story. He was a very unique fellow. It was a story about a time he met some travelers. And about a time he told some other travelers about some other travelers from the past. I don’t want to make this too complicated but, to tell it best I need to kind of talk the way he talks so you can get a better feel for how he told me his story. He said he was from Jersey, New Jersey. I don’t know if his accent was really Jersey, but this is how he talked. And I hope you won’t be offended by the way this guy talked about people. He wasn’t quite as “aware” as we are today, but this is the way he talked, and this is the story he told me.
Hey, do ya’ see dat light up dere? Whatya think dat light is? Is that some star or a UFO? I ain’t never seen a star that bright.
Oh, hey, how ya’ doin’? Merry Christmas friends! Headed home for Christmas? You sure got a late start, what were ya waiting for? Ha ha, don’t take it wrong I don’t mean nothing by it. My name’s Frank, I like to tell people that’s cause I’ll always be frank wit’ ya – like it or not! Ha ha ha!
Did you get all checked in? Good, lotsa room tonight in a little town like this. YeeHaw Junction and the Desert Inn ain’t exactly a natural vacation destination, huh? Me? Just out for little stroll around the parking lot before bedtime, havin’ a cigar and a little Christmas cheer, ya know? Naw, I live here – not at the motel, though I might as well, I’m here like 24/7. I’m the maintenance engineer. I was just out here checking out that star up there. It reminds me of a night when we didn’t have any room.
Yeah, about 30 years ago or so, packed out like I never seen. That was when they passed that new tax and everyone hadda go back to their hometown to be counted for the census. Sheesh, we had people in every room. I even ended up with this couple in the furnace room over on the backside of the motel. Yeah they rolled up on a motorcycle and the wife, I tell ya she was about 9 and a half months pregnant! Ha ha, ready to drop any minute. I felt sorry for ‘em, cause I knew there wasn’t a room anywhere near here with that blasted tax census. I took pity on ‘em and put ‘em in the furnace room. Yeah, I used to keep a cot there for nights when I had to work late, or got too drunk to drive home, heh, heh! And let me tell ya these two were a sight – brown, ya know – I couldn’t tell if they was Spanish or Arab or what at first, but I let ‘em in anyway. They were a little reluctant but I said, “what are ya waitin’ for that little lady is gonna pop that rug rat out any minute.”
Yeah, I was tellin’ the boys down at the lodge that story last week, when I told ‘em, they gave me hell. What ya lettin’ them types stay for, they asked… probably terrorists or Muslims or somethin’? These guys got no clue, they never met someone who wasn’t a white, redneck, good ole’ boy like them until I got here from Jersey forty years ago. They all want go shoot some Muslims somewhere but they don’t know what war is. I do. I served in Nam, in country, ya know, and let me tell ya, I got no love for guns and shootin’ anyone. I seen people die and it ain’t John Wayne romantic, let me tell ya.
Anyways, so’s I tell the boys you guys gotta get out more ya might learn something. Let me tell ya’ I learned a lot from that night. Mostly from that kid. Yeah, kinda got to know ‘em, what wit’ helpin’ them out that night and all. Good peoples even if they was brown, ya know? Ha! They named him Yeshua. I was like, what kinda name is that? I guess it was Middle Eastern or Arab or something but that kid was somethin’ else though, let me tell ya. Yeah, what happened was dey came around again every few years. I was kinda an honorary uncle, ya know. There was something special about him, that kid, wise, kind, way beyond his years.
He became some kinda teacher, but he only went and worked with the down and out, folks who was hurtin’, folks who everyone else kinda wouldn’t give a dime for, ya know? But he taught me too. He’d come back and we’d be talkin’ and he’d say, “Uncle Frank, you gotta open your mind a little bit. Boy, if he met the guys down at the lodge he’d say, you gotta open up your mind a lot!”
I was thinkin’ about that the other day, the boys were talkin’ about shootin’ all the Arabs and Muslims they could find and I started tellin’ em about this kid and what he said. He said we needed to learn to listen to others, to learn about their hurts and their problems then we wouldn’t hate so much. I said you guys don’t know a brown or black person in your whole life, how you gonna hate what you don’t know? You need to get out more and see things from other people’s eyes, huh? What are ya waitin’ for?
Then the boys went off on “queers and those types.” Yikes, I thought, I could hear Yeshua now. He’s the one who would always tell me, “You need to open your heart and mind up more. What are you waitin’ for Uncle Frank?” He’d say that, yeah. I used to think that way about those folks, you know the GBLT people or whatever the letters are. I used to think we oughta just round ‘em up and ship ‘em off or something. But Yeshua, he started showing me how all those people were wrong. He showed me how the Bible teaches about God loving people, not hating people, not condemning people. He said if ya get to know someone ya learn to love ‘em, even if they aren’t just like you. He said, “you learned to love me and I’m as different from you as can be, Uncle Frank! And he said, I love you too Uncle Frank, even if you are a Jersey guy! Ha ha ha.”
So funny thing, we ended up hiring these two people here, one guy works maintenance with me, we hired him about ten years ago. The other, a woman works the front desk she started maybe five years ago. Got to know them, good kids, ya know, both in their twenties, hard workers, both of ‘em nice and honest and smart as can be. Didn’t know at the time but ya know what? Turns out they’re both gay and they are like the best people you could know. I think Yeshua was right. I wonder sometimes, what was I waiting for, hating people for so long?
I watched Yeshua once when he was working, teaching, whatever it was he did. It was with a bunch of kids, some of em crippled or mental like, ya know, most of em poor. They climbed all over him and he loved it, he loved them, you could see it in his eyes, hear it in his laugh. He didn’t care if they were poor. He didn’t care if they were in a wheelchair or were, ya know, mentally handicapped or whatever. He saw them for someone lovable. I saw him with the parents and some of them were pretty hard case types, let me tell ya. They weren’t your County Club set. The neighborhood where he worked, the people there, it was pretty rough. There was a lot of crime, a lot of violence even between the people who were neighbors. He would bring them together and he would listen to them, and he would get them to listen to each other and pretty soon people would be friends. Ah, what do I know, how he did it?
But he said somethin’ once stuck wit’ me. Not sure what he meant totally but he said, “Frank, God is wit’ you.” He said, “and God is wit’ me and wit’ all dese people.” I said, “I know God is wit’ you Yeshua, any fool from Jersey City can see dat, but whattya mean God is wit’ me? He said, “God loves you Frank, and he loves all dese people. God don’t want all dis hatin’ and fightin’ and killin’, especially not in His name. God wants peace on earth Frank and God wants you and da boys at the lodge to know God is wit’ you and wit’ people you don’t even know or like. But most of all Frank, God loves you and God loves them too, because they are God’s children, all of them. And God loves those who are brown and Arab and gay and black and poor and rich. God is wit’ you Frank. You gotta tell people – God loves ‘em. God don’t hate. God don’t kill. God loves. You gotta tell em Frank, what are ya waitin’ for. God is wit’ you. Tell em.” So I thought about and I thought to myself, “Frank, what are ya waitin’ for? So it’s Christmas Eve, I figure a good time to tell ya. And maybe you can go tell some people too. God is wit’ ya. Go tell em. Whatta ya waitin’ for, huh? Oh, and Merry Christmas to you and yours. Nice to see ya’… yeah, Merry Christmas, bye now!”
And that was the story he told me. Merry Christmas to you. AMEN.