The Church seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are seasons of light during the long dark of winter. And, if you think about it, without darkness we would not see the light. In fact, Woody Guthrie, who is famous for writing This Land Is Your Land, once said, “You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.”
The simple truth of our existence in this realm of existence (called life) is that light shines in the darkness, and if not for our darkness and suffering we would not know 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. (Isaiah 9:2)
Of course, this “great light” in Isaiah is not a stream of photons that is measured in watts and lumens. This Great Light is spiritual light. This is The Light emanating from God, from the Heart of Eternity, that came before the creation of physical light (which originates from stellar fusion reactions).
This Light of the Spirit is supreme and has absolute sway over both the darkness and the light of our world and our lives. In fact, The Great Light’s universal illumination creates and destroys all things. The Light both establishes and disestablishes all things. As we see in Ephesians 4:6, the Eternal God is “through all and in all” but is also “above all” — and this includes light and dark, happiness and suffering.
In fact, the truth is that it is only within our darkness, and from out of our darkness, that God’s Light shines forth. Yes, the power of God is revealed only within and out of our darkness and suffering.
Darkness lets the stars shine bright. Darkness reveals to us the stars of heaven.
As people who have been claimed and elected by God’s mysterious will and infinite grace to be God’s Light-bearers in the night sky of life, we realize that our purpose in life is to shine forth the universal truth that all people are individual rays of the One Eternal Light.
Jesus was born into this world to reveal this Eternal Truth through his life, teachings, death, resurrection and ascension.
In the beginning was the Word… All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (from John 1:1-14)
1) The Light of Self-Understanding ~ The Bible declares that we are created in the image of God. In other words, we are rays of the Divine Light. This means we are by nature Divine. However, we also are afflicted with egoistic delusion and sinfulness. Simply put, human nature is Divine, but the human condition is sinful. Jesus continually sought to help people to know themselves, and to “see the log in our own eye” so that we do not judge and condemn. And he continually sought to help all people relate to one another according to the image of God that all people share — our original blessing.
2) The Light of Forgiveness ~ Jesus continually sought to shine the light of confession, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. In a world filled with the darkness and suffering of unforgiveness, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (from The Lord’s Prayer).
3) The Light of Gender Equality ~ Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” In other words, the Divinity of God has both masculine and feminine aspects. Therefore, God created humanity as male and female, and only together do we make a whole image of God. Our world — including our Christian faith and spirituality — has largely lost touch with the Divine Feminine. As a result, we have lost touch with the original equilibrium of masculine and feminine within our lives, our religion and our world, resulting in all kinds of problems. Jesus shined the egalitarian light of gender equality, and treated women as equals. Likewise, we must begin to reclaim the equilibrium between the Divine Masculine and Feminine aspects of the Eternal One within our lives, religion and world. God is Mother as well as Father, and God’s will is for this gender equilibrium to shine forth, as women are empowered (especially in Third World nations), for the glory of God and benefit of us all. “Our Father/Mother, who art in heaven…”
4) The Light of Eco-Spirituality ~ Jesus continually called us to consider the lilies, the birds, the foxes, the trees, the seeds and the grass in our relationship with God and each other. He used earthly elements of water, bread and wine as the primary physical signs of our eternal connection with God. He also talked about fire, wind, soil, and so forth, as metaphors of the Spirit. In other words, Jesus’ spirituality was intimately connected to the natural world. Jesus shined the light of eco-spirituality and Earth-wisdom for the sake of the world. Likewise, we have been claimed and elected by God to shine this light in our time. Are we considering “the lilies of the field” as Jesus calls us to do? Are we paying attention to the natural world around us and connecting to God’s universal truth revealed in nature? Are we stewarding God’s green Earth responsibly and sustainably?
5) The Light of Simplicity ~ God has ordained that we shall shine the light of simplicity in a world suffering from the darkness of slavery to materialism and consumerism. God has ordained that we shall be Light-bearers of simplicity of life and the deep joy that accompanies such simplicity. What if at Christmastime we bought fewer things, gave more to charitable concerns, and spent more time and energy on simply being more present with and for each other? We grow in simplicity as God leads us to let go of everything. In fact, all of life is one big letting go of everything we ever thought we had until we are left only with God alone as our One, True, Eternal possession. Simplicity of spirit and life comes as God burns away our ego and ultimately evolves all creation, according to his predestined will and grace, toward fulfillment in God.
6) The Light of Pluralism ~ Jesus always befriended everyone and treated everyone as equal children of God: Pagan, Jew, Greek, Roman, Syrian, man, woman, child, etc. The early Apostles of Christ, especially the Apostle Paul, embraced a multicultural vision of the people of God and the whole world. Pluralism and tolerance are also a cornerstone of democracy. Like a great Tree of Life, human civilization has many large branches, small branches, twigs and leaves. Yet, it is all the same Tree of Life, with the same trunk, root system, soil, sunshine and rainwater. Consider a tree with its many branches and leaves. It is one tree with many extensions. Likewise, there is One God with many expressions. There is one humanity with many ethnicities. There is one world with many cultures.
7) The Light of Faith, Hope and Love ~ Lastly, Jesus shined the light of faith, hope and love. He shine the light of trust/faith in God who is in absolute control. This is called radical monotheism. God is in control according to God’s will and grace and faithfulness. God is in control, and God works through our hands to do God’s work according to God’s purposes. Any power we have comes to us from far above, and we can’t change it. God is in control, God’s good will is unstoppable, and it shall be accomplished whenever, wherever and however God so desires. All we can do is be grateful as we fulfill our role (by God’s grace) to be Light-bearers in the darkness and suffering of this reality. And this gives us hope for the ultimate future of all things, and this empowers our love expressed in good works of compassion and charity.
Our suffering allows God’s Light to shine in our lives all the brighter. For it is in the darkness that the stars are revealed.
God is sovereign of both the light and the dark. God is supreme, God is immutable, God is true, and “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings… For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9)
Together in Christ, Pastor Tim