I’m in the midst of bringing my studies in Acts to a completion, and this last section, when Paul’s life shines so brightly, seems especially appropriate this time of year. It’s the time of year when, especially up north, the light drops lower into the sky and the shadows are long. Leaves have blown away and naked branches shake. And here in raincity we’ve the added beauty of clouds creating interplays of light and shadow in an infinite array of patterns. It’s a remarkable time of year, a time when darkness and light seem to be at war.
Thankfully, we live with the confidence that in just a few short weeks the darkness, which has seemingly been getting the upper hand, will turn once again enter its annual season of defeat as light inevitably triumphs. For some of us, the season is the most beautiful of all, not because we like the darkness so much, but because the darkness makes the little shards of light all the more poignant and powerful. A single candle in my home office at 6:00PM in March? Meaningless. On November 17th? Priceless.
If ours is an age of darkness, then, I’ll go on record as saying that it’s a great time be children of light, because the whole light and dark thing works, not only in the physical world, but in matters of the heart and spirit as well. Ours has been described by many voices as a ‘new dark age‘. The signs of darkness are seen more by absence than presence: absence of initmacy, meaning, hope, beauty, love, trust, hope, integrity. Evidences of the absence aren’t hard to find, whether one looks to our current wars and the pathologies that caused them, our current economic crises and the greed that got us there, or the crises within the many systems that are supposed undergird and sustain civilization, such as education, family, and the arts. It’s a mess of darkness, no doubt, as someone else mused here.
Why the hope then? Two reasons: First, just like any autumn, the darkness creates both a longing for, and an awareness of the light. “The People who are Walking in Darkness have seen a Great Light” said the prophet, and God knows that the darkness is here now. In a world of fanatic suicide bombers, terrorism, and militarism, acts of peace and love still happen, and they shine all the brighter for the context in which they appear. Generosity shines in the midst of obscene greed. Love for the least of these shines in the midst of a culture that worships youth and beauty. It’s time to quit moaning about the darkness, and recognize these days for what they are: moments when our calling as children of the light will stand out in stark contrast.
When people who are longing for light see light, they’ll turn to the light. Thus we’d better not simply let our light shine, we’d better prepare to love and serve those who turn to the light in these days, and I’ve a feeling the harvest is just getting started. Prepare? Yes. They’ll need places to sit in our churches, compelling worship they can understand, the Bible taught in terms that are simple, accessible, and applicable. They’ll need to learn how to take up their own calling as harvesters of light, so that they can share let theirs shine too, in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and wherever the Light sends them.
I’m hopeful for a second reason: We believe that Light will triumph. I’m looking out my office window right now as I write this in the late afternoon. The darkness is winning, and will reign for about the next 15 hours; by December 21 it will reign for about 16 hours each night. But then the light will triumph, the days inexorably lengthening as we who live here collectively lift our spirits, or feel them being lifted by the light. This is the way it is. This is the way it shall be. Light will triumph fully, finally, over the darkness, as we read here.
Our calling, as I’ll share on Sunday, is rooted in our identity as ‘harvesters of light’, those who receive the harvest of light and hope that is found in Christ, so that we might share it during times of light famine. I think about this calling every November. I ask Christ that, rather than cursing the darkness with whining, bitterness, fear and paralysis of soul, I’ll be light, or at least light a candle of hope through my words and deeds, so that the light of Christ, which our world is longing for more than they know, might see; and turn; and live. May this be our prayer…
What are some signs of light you’re seeing in the midst of these dark days?