A Light Shining in the Darkness
The prophet Isaiah once said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” These words were words of promise, the promise of the coming Messiah. At Christmas, we celebrated the coming of the Messiah in the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness. Of course, before his ascension, Jesus us that, as the church, we are now called to be the light of the world. Therefore, we are to be the light shining in the darkness. So, what sort of light are we, as the church, shining in the world today.
Even as I ask this question it occurs to me that when light shines in the darkness it can be either comforting and inviting or blinding and repelling. For example, if you have ever been in a dark room, like your bedroom in the middle of the night, you know how shocking it can be if someone turns on the overhead light. You immediately turn over and bury our face in the pillow because the sudden burst of light is more than you can handle. You keep your head buried until the light gets turned back off. On the other hand, if you have ever been in a dark room and someone strikes a match in order to light a candle, you are drawn to that little flame. You almost can’t take your eyes off of the flame; it welcomes you in and holds you, comforts you as the darkness begins to recede. Share the small light of that candle with another candle, and then another, and then another, and slowly the light in the room gets brighter and brighter, sort of like being in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve when we are singing Silent Night. Even though that once dark room has become brighter you don’t feel the need to keep your face buried and eyes shielded. This is good for us to think about as we consider what it means, as the church, to be the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness. Jesus told us, as the church, to share the good news that in him, God has come to be with us. In Jesus, God’s love, grace, peace, justice, and hope has been born into the world, and longs to be born into the heart of every person through the witness of the church. This brings to mind a question? Are we witnessing in a way that is like a blinding bright light in a dark room or like a lighted candle in a dark room. We can ask the question another way? Are we witnessing in a way that causes others to turn away and not want to look at the light, or in a way that invites others to see the light, to be drawn into the light and to be comforted by the light as the darkness in their life recedes. We are living in a time in which so many people think that the only way to share their message is to shout it in the faces of other people. We see it in the various protests that make the headlines. We see it in the way political candidates yell and ridicule each other in the hopes of gaining a vote. We see it in the way people continually draw lines in the sand as a divisive attempt to define who is in and who is out. Yet, for all the shouting that is taking place, there is very little listening taking place. All the shouting is like a blinding bright light in a dark room. We are turning away from each other and are not willing to listen any more. If we, the church, are to witness in a way that will invite others in, in a way that will encourage them to listen to the good news we have to share, we need to do so in a way that does not involve shouting our message in the faces of other people. The church’s message needs to be a lighted candle in a dark room and from that lighted candle, we can light another candle, and then another, and then another. With each candle that is lit the darkness recedes and the world gets brighter with the love, grace, peace, justice and hope of God.