Walking our village early in the morning, one of the things I enjoy most is waiting and watching for the sun to rise. There is something beautiful about seeing that first burst of light dispelling the darkness of the night. Light is a powerful force on its own but maybe even more so as it breaks through darkness.
“Weeping may linger for the night,” writes the Psalmist, “but joy comes with the morning.” (30:5). I love the passage in the “good news” of John that goes “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5).
Our neighbor George pointed out that “light” is also a key symbol of the Christian church season of Epiphany. Jesus is quoted in John’s “good news” as saying “I am the light of the world.” Writer Thomas Moore adds “Jesus was addressing all people on the planet, not wanting them to join his organization but to adopt his vision for a better human race.” Jesus is not just for the church that bears his name but (like Christmas) is for everyone.
Author Susan Lang adds “We are reminded in this passage (I John 1:6-7) that children of the light live in God’s light at all times. This means letting go of our grievances or anything that we let get in the way of a relationship with another person. True fellowship is a reflection of God’s love and is possible when we ground ourselves in God.”
We have to accept or reject the invitation to “walk in the light.” We are called not only to be children of the light but to bear witness to the light in our own lives. The vision of Jesus to create a community of love must be my/our vision. An interesting question is, Did Jesus want to be worshiped or did Jesus in his invitation to “follow me” want us to follow his vision?
Stargazers (astrologers/magi) were intellectuals from the land where the sun rises (Matthew 2). They were well aware of the Hebrew expectation of a coming Messiah. Gazing into the night sky they saw a light they had never seen before. They had to make a choice. Pass it off simply as a brilliant phenomenon or follow the light to see where it would lead. You know the rest of the story. Following the light can be satisfying but at times even dangerous. Ask Jesus about that!
There is an interesting comment in Holy Scripture about not being the light but reflecting the light. The passage is about John who we often call “the baptizer.” (John 1:6). It says that “he himself was not the light but he came to bear witness to the ‘true light.’”
Just as our moon is not the light but reflects the light of the sun, we are not the light but we are called to reflect the light and the vision of the Son. There is an interesting comment from Jesus in that while he called himself “the light of the world” he then turns and says to me and you - “you are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). He goes on to tell us that we are not to hide our light but let it shine before others. But then he quickly adds that “letting our light shine” is not to bring glory to ourselves but rather to God. This is an important statement because there are those in our midst who believe and practice as if they were the light itself. Reflect us and follow us they say. John’s gospel adds (3:19) “and this is the judgment that the light has come into the world and people loved darkness because their deeds were evil.”
Is evil too strong a word? What does it mean to “love darkness?”
In our nation and in the world’s community of nations some feel we are living in a land of “deep darkness.” How do you feel about that? The eighth century BCE Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote (9:2-3), “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.” It is one thing to see a “great light” it is another thing to follow the light. Do we follow the light because we agree with the light? Do we reject the light because we ourselves have become the light? George said is it possible that some choose darkness because they feel that’s where the light is. Is it possible once you define what light means then you seek for it until you find the light that agrees with your own definition? That’s scary!
There is an interesting passage in the letter that Paul wrote to the Christ-followers in Galatia (5:19-23). It refers to the fruit of the Spirit which is positive and the works of the flesh which are negative. Using this as a guide let’s change the wording to (first) things that produce light (positive) and (second) things that produce darkness (negative). Our neighbor George and his friend Dean sat down together and came up with a list which although not complete is a good start. You may want to add to it.
It’s all about us or it’s all about me;
Building bridges or building walls;
Being peace makers or simply calling for peace;
Being part of the solution or being part of the problem;
Capacity for compassion or being self-serving;
Hope or fear;
Vision or isolation;
Openness or secrecy;
Building up or tearing down;
Walk the talk or talk the talk;
Unity in diversity or chaos.
Let me paraphrase the words of the Hebrew leader Joshua “but for me and my household we have chosen to follow the light not the darkness.” (24:15).