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A Light To Lighten Our Darkness

by Gary Roth

based on John 1:1-14

Once upon a time, we are told, there was a man and there was a woman. We know that it was once upon a time and it was long, long ago, because it was a time very much unlike our own, a time like no other time since, a time we can only catch, and then only in small glimpses, in the hopeful dreams of youth. It was a time of beginnings – a fresh start – a time when the whole creation had the smell of newness to it. Before the first breeze stirred up the first dust to dim the glossy green leaves of the first tree; before the first leaf had ever withered and died and fallen to the forest floor; before the first tear drop had ever fallen, before the first sigh was ever uttered.

Have you ever dreamt about “once-upon-a-time?” Have you ever longed for a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate? The chance to begin again, without a history to hinder you, without the mistakes of the past to haunt you, without the burden of a sin-filled world constantly weighing on you, destroying every good thing you have hoped to do, destroying every hope, every dream; without having to tremble before the uncertainty of the future?

Once upon a time, so the story goes, there was a man and there was a woman, living in the new beginning - two people, completely and truly made for one another as none have ever been since that time, living in the depths of a love the likes of which we can only guess. For, you see, that depth of love – love without fear, loved lived in the presence of an eternal promise, loved lived in perfect innocence – that kind of love is no longer possible for us. It remains only as a dream, a long-ago memory of a love that once existed.

What happened, they say, is history – although why is harder to explain. They say that the eyes of the man and woman, created for light, were unable to deal with the darkness when it first came. And so they stumbled and fell. And that was the end of the new beginning. And ever since, men and women have been stumbling and falling in the darkness. They have been dying there, unable to see in the dark, unable to find a way out, unable to find their way back to the new beginning and to the light. Most who have gotten lost there have lost hope of returning to the day. That, so our scriptures tell us, is our story. We have become lost, we grope in the darkness, unable to reach the light. Because it is our story, we know that it is true.

Yet that is not the end of the story – in truth, it is only half of the story. In the beginning there was a man and a woman, but there was also a light – a clear, strong, burning flame in which there was no impurity, which lived in the presence of the man and the woman. They were created with eyes for the day so that they could live in the presence of that light.

What happened between the man and the woman and the clear, strong light has not always been clear to us. When we left the light and stumbled into the darkness, some claimed that the light ceased to shine. Some said it was never there at all, that it existed only in our dreams. But the truth is that when the man and the woman left it, the light remained. Not only remained, but pursued them, even into the realms of darkness, to bring them back. And one dark night, in a tired little town called Bethlehem, it found them. It settled over a stable, shining its clear, bright light over the place where we stumbled and fell. Like a spark, it ignited a donkey’s stall, and settled in a manger. With that, again, came the possibility of a new beginning.

The poet, Richard Cranshaw, writes of that event: Welcome all wonders in one sight! Eternity shut in a span! Summer in Winter, Day in Night! Heaven in earth, and God in Man!

The Apostle John tells the story in another way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light has continued to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own home, but His own people did not receive Him. But to all who do receive Him, who believe in Him, He gives power to become the children of God; who are born, not of blood nor of the will of our flesh, nor of the will of man alone, but of God.”

It is said that, back in that once-upon-a-time, when the man and the woman became aware of the darkness, they also became aware of how the light exposed them; they became aware of their nakedness before each other and before God. It had never bothered them before. But now they feared the light, and the way it exposed them. And that remains true even today. Many still fear the light, because they fear their nakedness and barrenness will be revealed. So they hide in the darkness and curse the light.

To stand in the light is to stand exposed to God and to one another, and that can be frightening. But to stand in the light is also to stand where we can see clearly once again, to stand in innocence, to have a new beginning.

John says elsewhere: (1 John 2:8-14) I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. But I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you do know Him which is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the truth.

The darkness still casts its shadow over us. Our exposure to the light makes us painfully aware of the darkness yet remaining within us. Yet to stand in that light is to accept the promise of a new day and of a new beginning. There is a new day, a new Eden for you and I. A light, a star, shines upon our world, beckoning and drawing us with its promise. If we believe in it, it will come and dwell within us, and bathe us in light. And we live in the promise that one day the promise will be fulfilled, all shadows shall flee away, death shall die, and God’s new day shall shine forever, even as it began to shine in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

May you live in the light of that promise,in the brightness of that hope, with the eternal light of Christ shining within you. Until He brings you into the glory of His new day, may you continue to abide in Him, until He makes all things new. Amen.