Throughout the lessons, prayers, and hymns of the Church, and especially during Christmas season, the references to Jesus as the light of the world is pronounced. For those of us living in the modern age, even in many undeveloped countries, the power of this attribution is less than it would have been for those living in ancient times because we, bathed in perpetual light, thanks to Thomas Edison, have little experience with the power of darkness. Time was, when the sun went down, you went to bed with the chickens. When you can’t see your hand in front of your face, darkness is something fearful. To venture out in total darkness is to risk falling headlong into a ravine, getting your eye poked out by a tree limb, or becoming food for a nocturnal predator. Add evil people using the cover of darkness to do their evil deeds, and darkness is a powerful paralyzing force indeed. Little wonder then that the scripture writers in describing the coming of Jesus used nothing less than the coming of the rising sun to dispel the darkness of the night to convey the radical transforming, effects of the teaching of Jesus and the example of his life. For just as we no longer have an intimate experience of darkness, so we who did not live in that benighted time before the Sermon on the Mount cannot fully apprehend what life then was like. To the scripture writers though the magnitude of the difference in the world before and after was nothing less than the difference between day and night.
So praise, rejoice and give thanks for the coming of the Light of the World 2000 years ago in the birth of Jesus; and praise the continual shining of his light by the church in proclaiming his message of peace and forgiveness; and be that light shining in the dark places you encounter.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC