Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
UNCLE PASTOR RAY MINNIECON
On the first day of Advent, 2022, Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
The Coming of the Light
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The overall purpose of the Advent season is to celebrate the coming of Jesus as Saviour of the world. Our chosen scriptural text says quite succinctly when referring to the coming of the Christ as a child: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isa: 9:7)
Traditionally, through the Advent season, leading into the Christmas narrative, we celebrate the occasion by our focus on four virtues and themes over four Sundays which include Hope, Peace, Love and Joy.
I will focus on the Advent of Hope, which is symbolised by light, shining in the darkness. Jesus said in John’s Gospel that, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). In context, Jesus stirred up more controversy among his religious leaders by this statement. How does His statement as Light of the World speak to us today?.
One of the most important celebrations in Australia is the ‘Coming of the Light’ festival, celebrated annually on July 1, by Torres Strait Islanders in the Torres Straits and on the mainland. July 1st is the day that is recognised and celebrated when Christianity entered the Torres Strait, and they became the first to accept the message of the Gospel (the Light) by First Nations People in this region of the world. On the 1st of July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane of the London Missionary Society anchored at Erub Island (Darnley Island). He was accompanied by a number of South Sea Islander evangelists and teachers. The tribal warrior, Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub, welcomed the London Missionary Society onto his Island. Thus the “Coming of the Light” festival and celebration began on Erub and spread throughout the many islands and peoples of the Torres Straits.
Today, the July 1st celebrations continue wherever Torres Strait Islander gather. Members of our Scarred Tree Ministries at St John’s Glebe, ensure that this important day is celebrated appropriately each year here in Sydney.
What does the “Coming of the Light” mean to the Torres Strait Islanders today? Aunty Rose Elu recounts a story of when she was a child, asking her father, “Why they talking about the light, weren’t our people already in the light? Why are they saying it was a coming of the light to the Torres Strait?” She goes onto say, “They explained to me it wasn’t in the way of thinking that we were in the darkness, that we came out of darkness into light, it was like them bringing the light to us and we are bringing the light to them, and we also tell them, we have a light in our own surroundings, we have a spirituality, we have things that we believe in.” And as The Revd. Canon Victor Joseph says, “The light continues to come…”, and the anniversary of the Coming of The Light is an opportunity for us to look for the Light, welcome it, and celebrate in joy”.
Let us remind ourselves today of the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, that reminds us, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-15).
Pastor Uncle Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi and the Gureng Gureng nation of South-East Queensland and a descendant of the South Sea Islander people with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. Uncle Ray is a pastor, educator, community facilitator and Bible teacher who has held multiple leadership roles among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. He has worked for more than forty years to develop Indigenous ministries and advocate for Indigenous peoples in Australia and worldwide. Together with his wife Sharon, leads the Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries at St John’s Church in Glebe, Sydney.