Power To Shine
ISAIAH 9:2 JOHN 1:4-9; 8:12
As a child, were you ever afraid of the dark? You aren't alone. Fear of the dark has its origins far back in history. To our ancient ancestors, darkness brought sheer terror. Only the sun, moon, and stars could hurl back the darkness, and because they dispelled darkness, they became objects of worship. What a relief and joy it must have been when our ancestors discovered how to make a fire. They were convinced they had captured some of the power of the sun and moon. Consequently, fire was added to their worship.
In fact, fire is still part of our worship. How does the service begin? By lighting the altar candles. Lighting the altar candles and Advent candles banishes darkness.
The biblical writers believed that the world was under the domination of a demonic power of darkness. Darkness was personified and called the Prince of Darkness, another name for Devil or Satan, the arch-enemy of God.
Darkness became a biblical symbol for believing that the world was created for something more glorious than it is achieving. Sickness is not intended to be the destiny of life. No human life was created for physical or mental distortions. Whenever life fails to achieve its potential, its fullness, its glory, it is because of the corruption of creation, a "fall into sin", which is called darkness. A demonic power twists, warps, ruling human life, usurping the place of God.
When a 16-year-old allegedly murders four members of his family right here in Merced, that is not what God intends or wills. In California, the leading cause of injury among 10 to 17 year-olds is no longer motor vehicles, but guns. Our kids are shooting each other. Who would deny the power of darkness which enslaves, victimizes, and traps? Fire is not the only biblical image used to describe hell. In Matthew 8:12, "outer darkness" is used as a picture of hell. Hell is described as the fear, terror and loneliness of darkness.
But, praise God, in the darkness, the light shines! When God created, according to Genesis 1:2, "darkness covered the face of the deep." The first act of creation was the creation of light, by the power of the Word. "And God said, 'Let there be light.'"
This is the first Sunday in Advent, and I am continuing the series: TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS.
When Isaiah spoke of the Messiah, whom Christians name as Jesus, he said, "The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16).
When Jesus was born, what did the wise men see? A bright star (Matthew 2:12).
The shepherds were roused by angels singing, surrounded by the light of God, the glory of the Lord (Luke 2:9).
When Jesus died, darkness covered the whole land for three hours (Luke 23:44).
When Saul met Jesus on the way to Damascus, he was blinded by a light (Acts 9:3).
According to John, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
In Jesus, we see the power to shine, the power to dispel darkness, banish demons, heal sickness, restore life, and recall us into a new creation. In Jesus we meet guilt with forgiveness, hatred with love, fear with acceptance. In Jesus we see what life was created by God to be--free, whole, giving, loving. In Jesus we see glory, and glory means light.
In the book, Gentle Persuasion, Joseph Aldrich celebrates the glory of Jesus.
His glory was
proclaimed at his birth,
heard when he taught,
seen when he loved,
felt when he healed,
demonstrated when he forgave,
revealed by his life,
invincible when he cleansed the temple,
veiled when he walked this earth,
mocked when he was tried,
disgraced when he was beaten,
ridiculed when he hung on the cross,
buried in a borrowed tomb,
vindicated through his resurrection.
His glory continues to be
splashed across the universe of sparkling stars and spinning galaxies,
demonstrated through the wonders of redemption,
accentuated through every sinner who comes home,
the ultimate reality which demands and deserves reverence from every creature.
Jesus is the glory of God, the light of the world. John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." And, incredibly, Jesus says to you and me, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). Jesus expects us to carry on his work, to shine the light in dark places. However, we are not the source of the light. Like the moon whose light is a reflection of the sun, so our light is a reflection of Jesus. As Jesus shines on us, we reflect his light into dark places.
Whenever someone is threatened by someone else, or a bureaucratic system, or a devastating illness, we are called to shine the light of Jesus. Whenever a child is abused, mistreated, or left alone because parents must work, we are called to shine the light of Jesus. Whenever crises hit, winds blow, floods rise, the earth quakes, and people are hurt, we are called to shine the light of Jesus.
Irma Zaleski in "The Door to Joy," writes of spending the summer with her grandmother in Poland. She writes,
I must have been five or six at the time. One night, I was awakened by my grandmother leaning over my bed. There was a noise of a great storm outside. Grandmother picked me up and carried me out onto a big verandah which ran all along the front of the house. "Look!" she said, and turned my face toward the mountains, "Look, this is too beautiful to sleep through." I saw black sky, torn apart every few seconds by lightning, mountains emerging out of darkness, immense, powerful and so real. Thunder rolled among the peaks. I was not frightened--how could I be? I was awed. I looked up at my grandmother's face and, in a flash of light, I saw it flooded with wonder and joy. I did not realize it then, of course, but now I do, that what I saw was ecstasy.
Her grandmother shined the light in the midst of a storm. Grandparents are great light shiners!
This is reported to be a true story about an atheist philosophy professor. His goal for one required class was to prove that God could not exist. His students were intimidated by his impeccable logic and his aggressive style. On the last day of a semester, he would say to his class, "If anyone here still believes in Jesus, stand up!" In 20 years, not one had ever stood up. They had heard what he was going to do next. He would say, "Because, anyone who believes in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the floor and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that he is God, and yet he can't do it." And every year, he dropped the chalk onto the tile floor and it would shatter into a hundred pieces, while the students stared.
One semester a Christian freshman took the class. He had heard the stories about this professor, so every morning, he prayed that he would have the courage to stand up for Jesus, no matter what the professor said or what the class thought. Nothing they said or did could ever shatter his faith, he hoped.
Finally the day came. The professor said, "If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!" The freshman stood up. The professor and the class of 300 looked at him, shocked. The professor shouted, "You FOOL! If God existed, he could keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hits the floor!" He proceeded to drop the chalk, but, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleats of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the floor, it simply rolled away, unbroken. The professor's jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man, and then he ran out of the lecture hall.
The young man who had stood up walked to the front of the room, and shared his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. 300 students sat and listened as he told them of God's love and power.
The young man shined the light of Jesus in a dark place, a classroom where God was ridiculed and attacked. Perhaps you will not find such a dramatic way to shine the light, but there are countless situations when you can shine the light and stand up for Jesus. A kind word, a gentle word, a strong word, a loving word, spoken in the classroom, in the workplace, in a store, in the neighborhood, in your family.
"You are the light of the world." Jesus, the light of the world, gives you the power to shine.
© 1998 Douglas I. Norris
© 1998 Douglas I. Norris