St Lucia, light and service

A little more than a year ago, I had a conversation about Our Lady of Guadalupe with one of the members of my church, who is Danish. She said then, “In some ways, Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds me of St. Lucia”. I have thought about that all year.

The commemoration of St Lucia in December is mainly a Swedish tradition. I found little information about how the commemoration became so important to the Swedes, but it is an integral part of the winter for those folks, and has spread to many Scandinanvian countries as well. The image in Sweden is of a blonde girl, with a  crown of candles on her head. She brings coffee and sweet goods to her parents early on the morning of St. Lucia’s day, and her littler brothers and sisters accompany her. Surely her parents are thrilled. This joyful moment takes place on December 13, which  was the longest night of the year in the days before the calendar was adjusted(!), and so the image of a little blonde girl bringing light in this simple, charming way is an integral part of winter for many folks in Scandinavia.

The original story of St Lucia is a little darker. Lucia was an early Christian in Rome, in the years of Diocletian, the Emperor. Back then Christians were killed, martyred, for not believing the Emperor was God. And Lucia made her mark by taking food by the armful to the Christians hiding in the catacombs to evade capture. She couldn’t carry a candle, so she wore a wreath of them on her head instead. You probably can imagine what happened. She was caught, she was blinded (but God gave her shiny eyes), and martyred by the Romans. And her witness of bringing care and sustenance to the faithful has stood the test of time.

But, of course, one wonders, what has this to do with Advent, with getting ready for Christ to be born at Bethlehem? And what about Our Lady of Guadalupe? How could these two women be connected in our faith practice?

Well, I have some thoughts (I am sure you do too). The Story of Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem is well known, and oft-remembered. The humble sight of a man and wife journeying far to be part of God’s plan for the world always touches me. And of course, it is God’s son, we speak of, who humbled himself to be born a child. The message of St Lucia, seems to me to be a humble one, a message of service. The original Lucia simply wanted to help, in what ever way was open to her. And so she brought food, and very practically put candles in her hair to see by. Her simple act of service touches the chord within each of us of humility, of putting others before ourselves. And of course Our Lady of Guadalupe, a pregnant dark skinned mother of God, is all about humbling – the action of the mother of God appearing to a peasant man on the hill of Tepeyac – telling him to build a church – who can hear this story and return to the brash ways of our world today – self promotion and bluster have no place in a life of service.

So, there they are, the humble ones – Lucia and Our Lady of Guadalupe, coming into the Advent story to remind us that God has never been about success, or stuff, or self promotion. God is about humility. God is about service. And you and I can draw nearer to the story of God’s humble sacrifice as we emulate these women – St Lucia and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Blessings on your Advent.

See you in church at Holy Cross Lutheran Sunday December 16th at 9:30 am – the kids will perform a wonderful skit about St Lucia, and we will talk about humility and service a bit more. Join us at 1998 Lansing Ave NE, Salem, OR 97301. – Pastor Patricia