In these cold dark winter months of long nights and short days we depend a lot on lights. Before artificial light was easily and cheaply available our daily lives were shaped by the natural daylight between sunrise and sunset. Now we have light pretty much whenever and wherever we want it.
And that’s good because light reveals the world around us. It can make our world safer when it reveals the uneven ground on which we walk so that we are able to go without stumbling or falling. It can make our world more productive when it allows us to work longer or more efficiently. It can make our world more caring when we use it to see and dress the wounds of others.
Of course, it can also make the world less safe when the bright lights of the oncoming car blind us. It can make us less productive when it allows employers to press production times to points beyond weariness. It can make our world less caring when we use it to see our way around those along our path who could use our help.
Light can reveal for good or ill. God’s son, Jesus, came into this world to be a light for good. The words and example of Jesus and his cross-bearing way, serve as a light to guide us out of our inner darkness. In our darkness of guilt, he reveals the promise of forgiveness. In the darkness of shame, he reveals the possibility of reconciliation. Jesus is the light that reveals our enemy as a person who could use, and even deserves, our love. He is the
light that reveals despair as the breeding ground for hope. When the light that is Jesus is used in this way, God is revealed to us and to the world.
But this isn’t always the case, is it? Can Jesus-the-Light be used in dark ways? Sure. We can use him like one of those Maglite flashlights when we use his words, or the words of his followers, to verbally knock people out. We can use him like a laser when we use his words to burn bridges in our relationships. We can use him like the high-beams of an oncoming car when we use his words to shine on our righteousness, our superiority, compared to others.
In this church season we call Epiphany, we celebrate that God has done something good and wonderful by giving to us the light of the world, and we ponder an even more wondrous thing: that God allows us to hold this light in our hands, in our lives. God knows we can use it for good or ill. Will we use it to reveal God to the world?
As you know, this is the kind of thing we, as the Church, think about and talk about when we get together. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon. If you get there first, please turn on the light.