Because I am up well before day every morning, I have learned to welcome the breaking of day. Firstlight. Generally awake and up two or three hours before day, I glance across the lake in anticipation of the light. The darkness begins to seem long. I hope to see Shakespeare’s “rosy-fingered dawn,” and I wait for its appearance.
Israel waited for the appearance of the Light.
Star Wars heralds the Light of the Force.
I watched the Oscars debacle Sunday night. It was the worst I have seen. Artificial, garish light splashed everywhere and on everything; but darkness reigned, in self-centered self-absorption, in exhibitionism, in ostentation, and in cursing and physical assault, over an insensitive joke. The suffering in Ukraine received next to no mention at all. Even film art took a backseat to self-exaltation. And darkness.
God sent the Light.
John’s first chapter immediately states:. “In Him was life; and the life was the Light of men. And the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John1:4,5,9,10).
In his elder years, John remembered that Jesus had expressed, and repeated a number of times, His early Self-identification, one which the Lord knew that most would refuse to accept. Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Jesus pulled no punches. Men loved darkness. Their deeds were evil. “For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds of him should be reproved” (John 3:20).
Of the four Evangelists, it is John who tells us most about the Light. As a young fisherman who grew, and sank, deep spiritual roots in Jesus’ divine Presence and teaching, roots strong enough to keep him faithfully present at the foot of the cross, throughout the Crucifixion, John was present at the empty tomb and, later , a personal witness to his Lord’s risen, bodily return. He was appointed God’s elected theologian of the Light.
God’s chosen theologian of the Good News, John introduced another named John, who “came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe” (John 1:7).
Early in His ministry, Jesus had identified Himself and the meaning of His Presence in terms of light. “I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but he shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Reynolds Price, scholar of narrative writing, ridiculed the members of the “notorious” Jesus Seminar of the 1990’s who disputed John’s witness to the Lord’s words. Knowing the marks of both fiction and nonfiction better than they, Price identified authentic, nonfiction writing in John’s eye-witness account, and denounced in print the Seminar’s “notorious” conclusions.
Jesus had said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walks in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (John 11:9,10).
Our world stumbles in darkness more dangerous than we know. Perhaps the war in Ukraine now is sounding an alarm to danger we could not see through the darkness. Ours is a death of God era, darkened, self-absorbed, and Nihilistic, acknowledging no absolute moral or spiritual values. Denying God, our world flounders in a thoroughgoing relativism. Modern humanity’s practical ethic is, in its least aggressive form, utilitarianism, and in its worst, totalitarianism. Neither is of God. For the Light is not in them. Likewise, Immanuel Kant’s ethics of duty falls short. The duty of willing for others only what we could reasonably will for ourselves can, and does, suffer intrinsic flaws.
Christian faith claims the Light and Lordship of Christ Jesus. Lent is a time in the Christian year calling for repentance from the darkness of evil and sin, and urging reverence for the Light. We have a Lenten story “to tell the nations.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Russia’s great thinkers, said, “Between good and evil there is an irreconcilable difference.” Between Light and darkness there is an everlasting, immeasurable difference. My calling and privilege is to say that Lent draws us toward the true Light.
Christ the Light is our Hope.
Thanks be to God.
Elizabeth Barnes is a native of Bladen County and now lives at White Lake. She taught Christian theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She is a member of Beard’s Chapel Baptist Church.