First Reading: Revelation 19:5-8
A reading from Revelation.
And from the throne came a voice saying,
"Praise our God, all you his servants,
and all who fear him, small and great."
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude,
like the sound of many waters
and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, "Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure"—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Second Reading: John 1:9-13
A reading from John.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God,
who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humans, but of God.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is the second week in Advent. In our Wednesday evening prayer services we are focusing on the saints of Advent. Last week I shared some stories about St. Nicholas. This week, I want to tell you about St. Lucy, whose feast day is December 13.
Lucy is certainly less well known than Nicholas, but she is very important in many Scandinavian churches. Lucy’s name means “light” from the same root word as “lucid” which means “clear, radiant, and understandable.”
Unfortunately, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse, Italy, lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century, the year 304.
Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.
Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ.
It is said that she was born to rich and noble parents in Syracuse, Italy. Her father was a Roman citizen and a Christian who died when she was only five years old.
Her mother was pagan, but because of her father’s influence, Lucy had dedicated her life to Christ at an early age. She had consecrated her virginity to God and hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor.
Her mother suffered from serious health problems. Her mother did not know of Lucy’s promise and she wanted to secure Lucy’s future, so she arranged a marriage for her with a pagan man.
Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow, so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life.
Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to Christ.
Tradition tells us that Lucy wore a wreath of candles on her head to light her way into the caves where she carried food to the poor Christians hiding in there.
Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the light and was very unhappy to hear that the dowry was being given away to the poor. So he reported Lucy to the governor as a Christian. The governor then ordered Lucy to burn a sacrifice to the image of the emperor.
When she refused, the governor tried to send her into prostitution as punishment, but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain.
The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword.
There is another legend that says Lucy's eyes were put out by Emperor Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes. There are statues of her holding a dish with two eyes on it.
This legend and her name played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.
As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Emperor Diocletian's reign.
Lucy is particularly celebrated in Scandinavian countries with their long dark winters. There, a young girl is wearing in a white dress calling to mind the bride of Christ in our first lesson. She wears a red sash as the symbol of martyrdom and carries palms and wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head.
In both Norway and Sweden, girls dressed as Lucy carry rolls and cookies in procession as songs are sung. Sometimes in Swedish families, the girls dress as Lucy and serve their parents rolls and cookies for breakfast in bed.
They say that vividly celebrating St. Lucy's Day helps them live through the long winter days with enough light.
Whatever the facts are to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian, in spite of torture and death, is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.
We are thankful for her example and for the example of the many saints who suffered for their faith. But we are most thankful that Christ, whose birth we celebrate this holy season, gives us the power to join with all the saints as children of God. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.