Light in the Midst of Darkness
Just down the street from the parsonage is a yard filled with lit Christmas decorations. At night when the lights are turned on, the beautiful colors are bright and sharp against the darkness. My eyes are drawn to the display, filling my mind and spirit with a touch of joy. At the same time, there might be people living across the street that are annoyed by the light. I don’t know if that’s the case on Main St. in Luckey, but I have been in places where the joy of decorating houses with thousands of lights seeds frustrations by neighbors whose homes are overwhelmed by the beams forcing their way through the windows. Who am I to tell them that their opinion is wrong simply because I think the light is joyful? I’ve not lived in their shoes.
Light CAN be a source of hope when we are anxiously overcome by darkness. If you have ever lived through an evening storm when power has been knocked out, you’ll recognize an instant uneasiness. For some, the discomfort may not be as intense as for others. However, there is a sense of comfort and security that comes when a flashlight, lantern, or candle is lit. It may not provide the security of shelter, but seeing what is in front of us does help settle anxious minds and spirits.
There are times, however, when all of us are unsettled by light. Consider what light does in the darkness…maybe a light being turned on by someone in your bedroom unexpectedly. Not only does it provide an opportunity to see what is ahead, but it also exposes everything around us. In the presence of light, we are vulnerable and cannot hide those things that we prefer to keep in the dark. With light comes truth and that can be an uncomfortable experience.
Last week we read from Mark about the voice crying out in the wilderness. Today we hear about the same man in John the Baptist testifying to the light. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” JOHN was not the light but the witness to the light. Glory and attention were not meant for him, but for Jesus.
Each person reacts differently to darkness and light. But because one may experience it more intensely than ourselves doesn’t mean that the fears of the other person are not real. We cannot tell someone to simply stop worrying because WE are not worried. We cannot dismiss the other person’s fear because we are not afraid. Or maybe we are afraid, including afraid to acknowledge our fears; that they might make us feel less acceptable.
Just as we may be afraid of the darkness, we are also afraid of the light. The truth of light exposes us, forcing us to face our fears and acknowledge who we really are, sinners in need of God’s grace in Christ. We prefer to hide our sinfulness in the shadows so that we don’t have to acknowledge that we are broken people. It’s easier to point to our accomplishments to justify our presumed worth.
Exposed in the light of God’s holy perfection, we cannot help but fall to our knees and confess that while we want to deflect our own sinfulness by pointing out the sins of others, we ourselves are in need of the same forgiveness and renewal that comes through Jesus Christ.
The light of truth does double duty. 1) It exposes us for who we are and 2) it enlightens us with hope of Christ’s love and mercy. Jesus is our light. He frees us from our fears when we trust his promise of forgiveness. We are imperfect people, and that’s ok. We can let go of the need to justify ourselves as worthy because without him, we are not worthy. Let’s not hide from the truth of light, but face our fears trusting in the promise of Christ’s love and grace. Amen.