I’m reminded of a visit Polly and I made some time ago. We were coming home at night, out in the country, no street lights, no lights from nearby homes. No moon. No stars. Dark.
But my car had lights. I was barreling along at 45 to 50 miles an hour on a dark country road. Though the landscape was gentle rolling hills, picturesque in the day, the darkness of night allowed a different driving experience. I could see extended stretches of straight road punctuated by occasional sweeping turns and highlighted by rises and dips obscuring potential oncoming hazards. With my lights turned on I didn't feel my speed was unsafe.
We had topped a rise and, seeing no other traffic, I reached to turn on the high beams. Reaching to flick the lever on my steering column, I hit it the wrong way and the lights went out. Just went out. 50 miles an hour. Unfamiliar road. In the darkness.
I slammed on the brakes and tried to keep the car in a straight line. Immediately, I went from a comfortable conversation with Polly to about, 10 seconds of terror. It happened so fast and I did not know what I had done.
Now … all was fine. The car stopped. We didn’t hit anything. I just hit the wrong button. But I’ve never forgotten the suddenness of it.
We take light for granted in our day. This time of year we get up in the dark of the morning and turn on our lights. Perhaps we drive to work under lights. Perhaps we drive home from work under lights and then spend the rest of our evenings moving from room to room under lights. Then, at the close of day, one of our last acts is to turn out the lights.
In Rochester, on Wednesday, December 21, we will experience 8 hours and 59 minutes of daylight. Just a tad less then 9 hours. Other than, perhaps, being miffed about the relative absence of sunlight on that day it is highly likely our lives will proceed unhindered. Because, after all, we live in a well-lit world.
For most human history people did not take light for granted. Most people thought it foolish to be anything less than cautious about the dark. Culturally, being "afraid of the dark" was thought just as wise as being afraid of a flood or a wildfire. Darkness was dangerous.
Obviously, the darkness robbed one of sight. Darkness detached hearing from seeing. Noises sounded different, perhaps a little less familiar and little more ominous in the dark. When moving, balance was harder to maintain because there were fewer visual reference points. When falling in the dark there was the added anxiety about how far, or into what, or on to what (whom) I might fall.
Animals are better to equipped to see in the dark. Many animals move more freely and, importantly, hunt in the dark. But animals are not the only danger in the dark. People, too, have often used the cover of darkness to "hunt" ... for items to steal or for traps to spring or, notably, just to kill another person.
In our day, because we think we have so much control over our lives, we take light for granted and we fail to take darkness seriously.
Jesus comes into the world and His IS the "light of the world." No, Jesus does not 'glow' in the dark. The world suffocates - perishes - under the cover of prevailing spiritual darkness. Our minds and hearts are spiritually darkened. Scripture tells us the "the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Our spiritual darkness is the absence of God's presence and God's truth in our lives. Our spiritual darkness is not the willful intent of every person in the world to be as wicked as possible. Even 'worldly' people can give good gifts, accomplish a measure of justice, live relatively according to prevailing morals. Yet the absence of the light of God's truth makes even these attempts on our part, at best, a life lived in shadows and approximations. On our best day - apart from God - we live with a disturbing lack of certainty and clarity. We see dimly.
Jesus is the light of the world. He is God's light. His life, words, deeds and especially His atoning death on the cross, followed by the power of His resurrection, light the world.
What use are we to make of this?
Ask this question: "Am I walking in the light of Jesus?"
This is an application only you can make for you. This is personal. This is intimate. Have you fled to the light of Jesus?
John writes, "This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Walking in the light of Jesus IS personal and it IS intimate. Do we acknowledge our own ongoing struggle with sin? Do we confess it? To God? To one another? Being “real” with ourselves and with others is life-long project.
Another question to ask ourselves: Do we love another? Is our love real and active? "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling."
This week you will have ample opportunity to demonstrate if Jesus is the light of the world … in your world. How? Not only by the songs you may sing or the services you may attend. How are you going to treat people … this week? How are you going to treat the people who are closest to you … this week? What posts are you going to make this week? Will they be kind? Will they be truthful? Will they pass along grievance and gossip? Will they be encouraging?
How are you going to treat that difficult family member that just … steps on your last nerve … this week? Will your behavior towards them shine the light of Jesus?
This is the simple application of the week:
Jesus is the light of the world.
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.