Light is a powerful image. In the Bible, light is the first act of Creation. The pillar of fire lighted the way at night for the Exodus journey. The light of a star guided the Magi to the place of Christ’s birth. “Light of the World” was an image Jesus used to describe the ministry of discipleship. The light of Easter dawn revived the hope of those who followed Jesus.
Light helps us see things more clearly. It helps us find our way. It is a sign of hope, as when the light of dawn brings the hope of a new day. It is a sign of direction, as when the beacon from a lighthouse helps one navigate in the fog. Light helps to dispel fear, as when the faint light of a night-light helps a child get to sleep. We know well the effect of a single match lit in a dark place.
The John Gospel uses the image of light to announce that Logos, the eternal Word of God’s divine self communication, has come into the world as shining light, and offering all the hope and promise associated with light. Not only has Logos come as light, but it has come in such a way that no darkness can overcome it. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ that the rest of the John Gospel goes on to proclaim. This is the joy of Christmas.
The word of faith that we celebrate and proclaim during the Christmas season is Emmanuel – God with us. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it, nor will it ever, not even in death. Like those candles my kids are always putting on my birthday cake – the kind you can never blow out – this divine Logos has come into the world as light that cannot be extinguished. It is a light that shines in the dark places of our lives; places of loneliness, hurt, loss, depression and anxiety. It is a light that shines in all the hurting places of the world – even a world struggling to make sense out of tragedy and disaster – and offers hope, even against tremendous odds. Perhaps you know about the power of this light from your own experience. Or perhaps you are counting on its capacity to shine in some dark place of your life.
The Christmas season is the time of year when that light seems especially present in the world, and not just the lights outside our homes, in our windows and on our Christmas trees. There is a spirit of giving all around us, bringing a bit of light to some dark corners of people’s lives. All the toy drives, all the food collections, all the acts of kindness, all the expressions of charity that get news coverage this time of year, and all the hours people give to helping others seem to say that we know too well the darkness that exists and we too want to somehow be light in the midst of that darkness.
The Christmas and Epiphany season is all about light: The light of God’s incarnate love coming into the world; The light of a star that led others to the place of divine birth; The light that will shine in our Lord’s life of liberating, reconciling love; The light that will meet the powers of darkness head on and conquer even death itself; The light that will inspire others to ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.
The reason that the light cannot be overcome by the darkness is because God will not let it. God continues to empower people of faith who are willing to be light to the world, people who are willing to illumine the world with the brightness of the light of Christ. We are called to be people of the light. You know that. We are called to walk in its brightness and to let it shine through us. You know that, too.
Word become flesh; Light shining in darkness; “Ever seeking” God; “Always finding” God; Emmanuel – God with us; Here is a poem about this wonderful God from the hand of Charlene Van Beveren:
Light dawns as it binds us.
Ever closer it unites us in the womb.
Eternal being, light from light.
Eternal seeking, calling forth heavens message out of chaos.
Gentle passage, coming forth, joining forces.
Souls of light erase the darkness circling round the golden binding.
Never ending, always finding God.
Being called into the light of God’s incarnate Word is the invitation of Christmas. The light is a place where fear loses its power; where we are helped to see clearly and where we can help other see more clearly. In baptism you and I are called to be the light of the world. Walk then as children of the light. Let the light shine through you. God will not let that light go out.
© The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely