Reading John 1:1-14 made me think about stories of light and the snippets of information about light which have captured my attention over the years.
And the first one has to be the very opening verses of the Bible, the story of creation.
Of course if we start at the beginning, the very beginning, the opening stages of the drama of creation when all is in darkness, we hear that the very first words that God speaks are.
“Let there be light”
That’s how the whole thing kicks off – God speaks into the darkness and commands that light comes into being, and it does and the first thing that we hear about this light is that it is good. This light is a good thing;
This light pushed back the darkness, it provided the energy on which all other life forms in the whole of creation would be supported, it provided the measurement of time in that it gave us day and night, it would contribute to our well being and it gave aesthetic qualities to this new creation, light made things pleasing and beautiful and so Light, the very first thing in Gods creation was indeed good.
Now here is a fascinating snippet of information about light
Did you know that in darkness the flame from a candle can be seen with the naked eye from 15 miles away. I think that that is a truly astonishing if not profound. It tells us that when all is dark around us, no matter how tiny or distant the light seems to be there is something about the way in which we are constructed as human beings that equips us to us to search out the light.
Yet another light story that has fascinated me over the years is the story of Albert Einstein who defined the theory of relativity which changed our entire notion about the construction of space and time.
But it is the story of how Einstein came up with the theory that fascinates me.
It all began as he imagined himself to be travelling on a beam of light, literally! He wondered how it would be to sit on such a beam and travel around the universe at the speed of light. And from these adventures of imagination the whole theory of relativity unfolded.
So not only is there physical eyesight that enables us to see a candle at 15 miles, but there is also the vision that comes with our imagination. We have the ability to wonder and create within us all sorts of thoughts and transformational ideas for our unfolding lives. And sometimes we will do that in bright and hope filled ways and sometimes our pictures and thoughts and feelings and imaginings for the future are difficult and even frightening, so much so that a vision of hope is hard to grasp….. and we are left to wonder where the light is.
My fourth reflection about light concerns someone who had known a very difficult time, a time when hope was hard to imagine. His name was Phillips Brooks born in 1835 in Boston. As a graduate of Harvard University he went on to become a teacher and this was a truly disastrous career choice for him, this time in his life has been variously described as humiliating and a complete failure. Quite stung by his experience he then hesitatingly went on to train for ministry and was ordained in 1860. He became Rector of a church in Philadelphia and it was whilst there that he asked for leave of absence for a year to reflect and to sort out his life. During that year he toured Europe and the holy land.
It was Christmas Eve of that year, when on horseback he rode from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and by nightfall he found himself at the site known to be where the angels visited the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. At ten O Clock on that same evening he went to the church of the nativity and standing close to the spot where Jesus was born became very deeply moved, emotionally and spiritually. It was on his return home having reflected on that special moment that he wrote the hymn
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
But it is the next stanza that I want to draw our attention to, the verse continues with this;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.
They are beautiful words to reflect upon and there is something about the way that Pillips writes that really captures that moment in the unfolding story of the journey of humankind.
It is the moment of Christ’s birth, the moment when a very special light came into the world, a light with some pretty amazing qualities which the first chapter of John’s gospel is quire specific about.
It is a light that darkness not able to put out.
It is a light that gives light to everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed or circumstances.
It is a life giving light that offers real hope when all around seems dark
Such a light is wrapped in mystery, it is deeply metaphysical and hard for us to understand……How can such an inextinguishable light be? And since it is not a light that we see with the naked eye how can it give light to everyone?
This light of Christ, there though all eternity, in each and everyone of us calls us all to a way of life that defies all that our lower, egotistical selves could even imagine and has the potential to transform even those who, to our human minds have little prospect of finding hope or forgiveness.
Yet it is in this light that heaven on earth becomes a real possibility for all of us. Yes even in these dark times in which we seem to be living, that light cannot be extinguished.
But here is the rub. If you really want to live according to the light of Christ, and if you really want to see this world change then it has to begin with you. There is no use in pointing out another’s darkness and bemoaning how bad they are. Every time you do that you are not focused on allowing the light within YOU to shine, you are simply focused on someone else’s darkness…..
You, see living in the Light of Christ is a decision, a minute by minute choice, being forgiving is a decision, loving others is a decision, refusing to make value judgements is a decision, being a peacemaker is a decision, dealing graciously with others is a decision. This is what it is to be awake, to be conscious, to live in light and to be ready to decide in each moment how we will respond to the world until living in the light becomes our default position..
Many people don’t realise they have this choice, instead they respond to the world as if on automatic pilot – living in fear, filled with negative thoughts, believing the media junk that so often seems to have our our remaining in darkness as the number one agenda; and that kind of darkness can be scary and disempowering…… but it can never overcome the light in you or in the world at large.
So if you want to see the world change it starts with you!!! What choices will you make then? How will you keep watch over your thoughts and decisions to ensure that you are attuning yourself to that light within instead of succumbing to the fear and discouragement that abounds in the world?
Let us just imagine for a moment that on that night in a stable in Bethlehem this light really did enter this world in the form of a tiny baby. Imagine it to be a light so profound that the darkness in our lives, or even all the darkness in the world simply cannot extinguish it.
What if we were to believe in the hope that such a light would bring!
We would of course have to remember that this is not the human version of hope that so easily can be shattered – rather it is an eternal hope – beyond our comprehension. Even Einstein with all his logical prowess and soaring imagination could not begin to fathom a nanosliver of the hope of this light…
(Nanosliver; a measurement I have just made up to denote something infinitesimally small)
Yet it is there, it is there in scripture, it is there in human kind, it has changed lives, it has brought light into the darkest of places…..But above all it is in you and so, if you want to see this world transformed begin with the light that is in you and the decisions you will take from now to bear the Christ light for the hope of the world.