Summary: Funeral message for Mrs. Julia Hamilton, the mother of several accomplished sons. A "lovely light" (of Millay’s poem) is one which reveals truth, shares light in the household, and looks to God as the author of all light.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ... I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
The Lord is my light – and on this dismal day, when outside the rain continues to fall, and inside, hearts are grieving, how much we need His light! The Lord is our light and our salvation. We must believe that, despite our loss, we shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
The Lord is light. Light and sight. Those mysterious things without which we cannot live. Light, the first of God’s creations. When there was nothing but formless void and darkness, God said, “Let there be light,” and God saw – without light who can see? God saw that light was good. Light and sight are the most essential of God’s gifts.
As today we come to celebrate the life of Julia Hamilton and the light by which she lived, I think of some lines from the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay:
“My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But ah, my foes, and oh my friends – it gives a lovely light.”
Julia Hamilton gave us a lovely light. It is the tragedy of life that no matter how long we live, it is not enough. We always want more. Our candles burn at both ends and will not last the night. As another poet, Tennyson, said, “We think we were not made to die.” No matter how long, it is not enough. But the issue is not whether we shall live or die. That’s settled. Each of us must come to the end of this life. The real issue is whether there is a lovely light. The question is whether our all-too-few days are filled with light. Julia Hamilton will teach us how.
I begin with these astonishing words of Jesus. He told us, “You are the light of the world”. That is astonishing, because few of us are lights for anything, much less for the world. Few of us are lights for our own homes, or for our own communities. We have not learned how to shed a lovely light even in small places. Light of the world? That’s too much. That’s a stretch. Who can measure up to that?
Nonetheless, Jesus insists, “You are the light of the world,” and then goes on to spell it out. Julia Hamilton showed us how it can be done. How to be the light of the world? Let her lovely light show the way.
First, notice that light sends a message. Light by its very nature reveals things. It brings out truth. It opens up possibilities. Jesus said,
“A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand.”
It would be absurd to have light and not use it. It would be pointless to turn on a light and then cover it over. Light is intended to reveal truth and send a message. When our lights are not working – like the ones over these pulpits today! – the truth is hidden and does no good.
One of the members of our church, also formerly a neighbor on Aspen Street, when she learned of Mrs. Hamilton’s death, said she looked forward every year to the Christmas decorations on that house. She said that the lights that used to come from that home were glorious and plentiful. What was that all about? Was it just for show? Was it a display of luxury, a pretense to affluence? Or did it have another purpose?
And then the flowers that she grew. The life she nurtured and cultivated in that yard at 4th and Aspen. What was that all about? That blazing display of red and pink, mauve and lavender, yellow and orange, all sorts of varieties – what was that for? Was that intended to impress you with her skill as a gardener? Was it there just for her private pleasure?
No, these things were there as a witness. They were there to point beyond themselves to the glory of God. Christmas light, not just for the sake of display, but to remind the neighbors that in Jesus Christ, life and light, joy had come into the world. Glorious flowers, not just to dazzle, but to bear witness to the creator who is the Lord and giver of life, the father of lights, in whom there is no shadow. Julia Hamilton’s lovely light was not about herself. It was about her God. And she would not hide it under a bushel basket, but put the light out there for all to see.