Light of the World


Fellowship Class

Tarrytown United Methodist Church

Dec. 17, 1995


In the beginning was the Word:

the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning

Through him all things came to be;

not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him,

and that life was the light of men,

a light that shines in the dark,

a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness,

as a witness to speak for the light,

so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,

only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light

that enlightens all men;

and he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had its being through him,

and the world did not know him.

He came to his own domain

and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God,

to all who believe in the name of him

who was born not out of human stock

or urge of the flesh

or will of man

but of God himself.

The Word was made flesh;

he lived among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,

full of grace and truth.

The Christmas season started off on the wrong track for me this year.

I spent six days in the hospital this week, while the cardiologists tried

various remedies to get my heart back in rhythm. It just didn’t seem like Christmas somehow. 

I went on one drug for three days.  It didn’t work, and it made me sick.  They tried a second drug for two days.  It didn’t make me sick, but it didn’t work either.  Finally on Thursday morning I got the shock-to-the-heart treatment.  It gave me a spectacular sunburn on the chest, but no results.  Apparently my heart doesn’t change its ways very easily. I should have expected that.  It’s just a stubborn Swedish heart,  I guess. 

So now after six boring days in the hospital, I’m back home again taking the same drugs I was taking before.  The doctor’s orders are a low salt,  low fat diet,  lots of exercise,  a nap after lunch, and be careful not to cut yourself.  Thanks very much, and a “Bah Humbug” to you.

Christmas just wasn’t starting out right.  I  felt much like Ebenezer Scrooge.

“A merry Christmas, uncle!  God save you!” cried a cheerful voice.  It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

“Bah!” said Scrooge.  “Humbug.”

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and mist, this newphew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled and his breath smoked.

“Christmas a humbug, uncle,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “You don’t mean that, I’m sure.”

“I do,” said Scrooge.  “Merry Christmas.  What right have you to be merry?  What reason have you to be merry, you’re poor enough.”

“Come then,” returned the newphew gaily.  “What right have you to be morose?’ You’re rich enough.”

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle.  When I live in such a world of fools as this?  Merry Christmas.  Out upon a Merry Christmas!  What’s Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you?  If I could work my will, said Scrooge, indignantly, “every idiot who goes aorund with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.  He should?”

Yes, I felt Scroogel-like most of the week. 

Nevertheless, I think my attitude did change some, although my heart did not.

As I walked around the third floor of Seton Hospital looking at the kind of sad Christmas decorations on the doors and at the nurse’s stations,  I came to realize that the world contains lots of people who are worse off than I am.

One fellow I met in the hall looked older than I do, but it turned out he’s actually ten years younger.   He’s had a serious arhythmia for 18 years.  He’s so bad off he wants the doctors to sever the nerve from his brain to his heart and put his heart entirely on the pacemaker.   Apparently he really trusts the battery that keeps that little rabbit going and going.  I don’t think I’m ready to do that just yet.  But I admired his faith.  And I kind of stopped feeling so sorry for myself.  The little Christmas decoration on the door of my room, which orginally looked about as cheerful as Scrooge’s door knocker, suddenly began to look better to me. 

As a child  I was often ill with rheumatic fever.  I hated not being able to do the things my age mates could do like play football and baseball and go on long hikes.  Often I just couldn’t keep up, and I had to come home and rest.  I hated it.  I moped around the house, complaining bitterly.  Whenever I got really impossible my mother would send me over to play with Carl Magnuson, who lived next door to the West Hill Methodist Church.   Carl had had polio and had to wear impossibly heavy braces.   I had to help him on his bike and place his feet in the special pedals his dad had made for him.  He fell down a lot, and it was really hard to get him up again.

I always came home worn out after an afternoon with Carl, but feeling better about my own condition. 

I found it interesting this week that my mom’s remedy for my self pity still works after 55 years.  Whenever I got to feeling glum in the hospital I just got up and walked around and took a good look at my fellow patients.   It helped a lot. 


You’ll be glad to know that hospital food is just as tasty ever.  It’s awful stuff, isn’t it?    Overdone roadkill is what it looks like -- food only a buzzard could enjoy.   I think it is designed to make people want to get out of there.   

LaVonne took pity on me.  She put two of those hospital tables together  in the corner of the room and covered them with a red and green tablecloth.  She brought a little lamp and a poinsettia from home to decorate the table.  She set the table with real china and silverware and carefully placed some wine glasses to hold the hospital’s cranberry juice.  Every evening, I put on my Hugh Hefner silk robe -- it’s a maroon paisley outfit, very very nice  --  and LaVonne went out and got a delicious dinner from Milto’s or Basil’s or Mozart’s.  We turned out the fluorescents and dined by lamplight.  All the hospital staff managed to come by and take a look at “the romantic couple in 312” as they called us.  My blood pressure was excellent most of the time, but when the nurse took it while we were eating our dinner one night it registered160 over 90.

The light was important, I thought.  LaVonne always looks nice, but my appearance is much improved as Gilbert and Sullivan put it in one of their songs “in the night with the light behind” me.  LaVonne’s lamplight dinners did a lot for me --

they helped me realize that in spite of my present difficulties I have a lot to be thankful for.


When the cardioversion treatment failed Thursday morning, the staff got me packed up and out of there in a hurry --  poinsettias, Christmas tablecloth, lamp and all. 

I was glad to get home, but I felt well enough that night to get dressed up and go to the School of Pharmacy’s Christmas party.

It’s one of the best of the University’s Christmas parties,  although everyone says you have to be careful and not drink any of the punch.  You can’t tell what those pharmacists will put in it.  When the next full moon arrives you may find yourself growing hair all over your body.

LaVonne and I really enjoyed ourselves at the Pharmacy party, but we didn’t stay long, and we took a leisurely drive home through the neighborhoods.

I was surprised to see how many Christmas lights are out there this year. People have outdone themselves.   Some of the streets are spectacular.  Do you remember how drab Christmas seemed just a few years ago during the oil crisis when we weren’t supposed to do any outside lighting?  That certainly has changed.  People are not hiding their lights under a bushel this year.  The neighborhoods are ablaze with color.  Somehow the lights were comforting to me.  I had the feeling that Christmas was really coming after all.  I was glad that I was out of the hospital and able to participate.

Coming down Skyflower Drive we turned the last corner and saw our house.  The automatic timers had worked their magic,  and our house was aglow.  We could see the greenery on the stairs, and the big  tree shining in the library.  Upstairs, the grandchildren’s tree -- smaller, but no less colorful -- sent its light out into the darkness.  Light in the darkness.  It was good to be home again for Christmas.

The church called up Friday morning and asked whether our family would light the candles at the 7:30 service Christmas Eve.  I said we would be glad to, and I’ve already twisted the arms of as many children and grandchildren as possible to be sure they show up on time looking good.  Christmas is back on track.