Light in the midst of darkness
Paul Rochester writes:
We are children of light living in a world of darkness. The darkness of the world can be staggering, to the point of discouragement. Signs of that darkness are seen in humanity’s propensity for evil, ignorance about the true reality of life and existential questions and society’s disregard of our loving God. Despite that God’s people are called to let their light shine. St Matthew 5:16 states: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
In the natural world, light is essential to life and the ability to see. The oxygen we breath is a result of light and the photosynthesis process whereby energy in the atmosphere and environment supports the development of living things. Life and light are inextricably linked. Jesus in declaring himself to be the way, the truth, and the life brings together the fact that he is the source of life and He gives direction to living a fulfilled life (St John 14:6).
We know that in Scripture light is used, amongst other things, to describe knowledge. Many are living in darkness or to more precise, in ignorance of the life of God and the incarnate Christ. It is only the light of Jesus Christ which can dispel that darkness. The Bible tells us that God’s words give light and understanding to the simple (Psalms 119:130). This focus on spiritual darkness, and the need for light is at the heart of the story about Jesus. There is little merit in seeking to explain away this darkness or to seek for the answer through social constructs, despite that many will continue to try.
Spiritual light is the answer to the malaise of humanity. If we are truthful, we will acknowledge that there is a great deal of suffering and bewilderment all around, affecting the lives of many. People are desperate for answers. The people of God should be confident that they are part of the answer because Jesus who is the answer lives within us. It’s important to not underestimate our worth in Christ but with boldness and sensitivity, in the love of God, challenge the darkness by being the light of Jesus Christ.
We are in the last quarter of the calendar year and soon we will begin Christmas festivities. Jesus was born to be that light in a world of darkness. It so important that the people of God do not lose faith and become disturbed by what they see happening in the world. We are to guard against the spirit of discouragement and, I think, that we do that best in community. We do that by encouraging and supporting one another. Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). This community is at the heart of ecumenical work and calls us to learn to walk together, to share the blessing of Christ’s kingdom.
I believe that as we look forward to Christmas it would be good to take time to think again about what Christ’s coming really means for humanity. There is now a way for us to come to God and receive light, that we can be light in a world of darkness. Without Jesus Christ who is the light of the world, we are still in darkness. Jesus Christ alone is the answer to all of life’s ills and therefore the light to dispel all darkness.
My heart, despite the brokenness and challenges I see in the world, is still moved with great excitement when I think about Jesus Christ. I am excited because of the hope Jesus brings to humanity, what His coming means for me but also, just as importantly, what it means for all who look to Him. When Luke spoke of the birth of Christ, he was very clear that it is a blessing to all (St Luke 2:10). He is the light for the whole of creation. Through Jesus Christ we no longer need to stumble in the darkness but walk in the light.
Rev'd Paul Rochester is General Secretary of the Free Churches Group