God speaks into our darkness
In the beginning of the Bible the very first words that we hear God speak are, “Let there be light.” And God saw that the light was good. The context into which God spoke was darkness. From out of the darkness God created light and life. From out of the darkness God created all the things that we are so familiar with today. Had we been there with God at the beginning we would have expressed our wonder at His creation with childish delight. Who would have thought that from out of the darkness came such a variety of creatures from the hippopotamus to the aardvark, from the butterfly to Cassius Clay, from the bottle tree to the weeping willow, from people like you to me. And God saw that all his creation was good.
Light is a theme that weaves its way through the Bible. It has been used as a metaphor for God’s presence, guidance, and of hope for the people of Israel. During Israel’s time of wandering in the wilderness they were guided by God’s presence. The light, the glory of the Lord at times would fill the tabernacle, and when it lifted it was a command for the people of Israel to move camp and to travel toward their destination and the promised land (Exodus 40: 34-38).
At times, light would signify a momentous event. At the birth of Jesus Christ a bright star shone above Bethlehem where the baby Jesus lay in a manger. Furthermore, the star light guided the wise men of the east to where Jesus lay. In the nearby fields where the shepherds watched over their sheep at night, the glory of God shone around them while an angle announced the birth of their saviour.
Light has also been used throughout the ages as today to commemorate important occasions. People everywhere celebrate birthdays with lighted candles on a cake. Elaborate and choreographed light displays fill the night sky during many New Year celebrations. These are times often accompanied with joy, singing and dancing.
In all the occasions where light has been used in people’s lives it has become primarily a metaphor for hope. Whether at a birthday or New Year celebration, a person looks forward to a better year. Perhaps, that hope is for a year of better health, or growth in superannuation funds, or perhaps the beginning of a new life what ever it may be. To have hope can inversely imply that there is darkness in a person’s life. It reveals a need for a saviour who can speak into that darkness and bring forth light and a new creation whatever it may be.
If I had the opportunity to visit and partake of any celebration, at any time and place, then I would go back to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles at the time of Jesus. The activity took place in the city of Jerusalem. It was a city of world renown, not only for the pilgrims who came to worship God at the Temple, but also for tourists who came to see the splendour of the city, fashioned and built by King Herod.
The Feast of Tabernacles was an annual feast to commemorate God’s goodness towards Israel during their period of wandering in the wilderness. At the time of Jesus, the feast also included a light ceremony which focussed on the illumination of the Temple. For six days pilgrims and others would joyously process up to the Temple carrying torches and lights. The Temple itself was illuminated from the light of candelabras placed throughout the various courts. Pilgrims were allowed into the inner courts according to custom. They would joyously carry their torches of light while moving around the alter singing and dancing. Meanwhile, the gentiles, the non-Jews, and the tourists could remain in the outer court also joyously singing and dancing in this festival of light.
The combined light would have been a wondrous sight to behold. On a hill as it was, the light would have radiated out dispelling the darkness on the nearby hills and valleys. Those who were unable to attend would have turned their face towards the show of light and shared in the joy and hope of a better year to come.
The whole spectacle was in part to commemorate the glory of the Lord that once filled the tabernacle and guided the people of Israel to the Promised Land. At the time of Jesus, the light ceremony also became an outward display of their hope for the coming Messiah.
It was into this setting of light, joy, singing, dancing, and of hope for a better life that Jesus spoke in a loud voice and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
At that moment Jesus created something new. He became the light; the glory of the Lord that once filled the tabernacle now filled the Temple. He became the light that will guide Israel and all people to a new Promised Land. Many were unaware of his presence and actions, and yet Jesus became the fulfilment of their hope, the Messiah has come. In the presence of Jesus this setting of light, joy, singing and dancing has become a glimpse into the nature of heaven and eternal life that Jesus offers to all people. His words radiated out with the light into the darkness of the world to bring forth life to all people.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he lives today. Because he lives, he continues to be the light of the world and the light of life. No longer do people have to wait for their annual festival of light to express their New Year hope, for now Jesus who is with us offers hope and the light of life everyday. Whether you are a Christian or not, have faith or doubt, Jesus will be in your presence speaking into your darkness. On that night at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus stood in the midst of believers and non-believers of whom many where unaware of his holy presence as he spoke into their own darkness.
Throughout the Bible, God has used all kinds of people, circumstances and events to speak into the darkness that is within all people. God sent Moses, a murderer to speak to Pharaoh of Egypt to let the people of Israel go. God sent a boy with his small lunch which was used by Jesus in the miracle of feeding the five thousand. God sent women to tell the men who were hiding in the upper room that Jesus is risen. In many circumstances, Jesus was a stranger to the people he healed. Jesus is the light of the world who speaks into our darkness and brings forth life.
How is Jesus the light of life today?
How does he speak into your darkness, and bring out of it a new creation?
The common answer today is, “Read the Bible, let Jesus speak to you from there.” It is a good place to start and to go back to. But there’s more. Jesus does not wait for Sunday mornings, or for you to open a dusty Bible, he is busy everyday bringing life to people everywhere. As he was in the Bible lands where he went about daily healing people, and so he is the same today.
Jesus continues to open and close doors in your life to guide you in the direction of life. They may be interpreted perhaps as an unwelcome situation, or an opportunity for the taking. Facing the closed door only increases anxiety, frustration, and a longing for something better. There is already a door that is open for you. The important thing to do is to step back from whatever situation you find yourself in and from whatever is being said to you and ask yourself, “Is this, Jesus speaking into my darkness?”
Jesus speaks to you through all sorts of people, including, family, friends, work colleagues, and even strangers to direct you to the path of life. Those words may be words of anger, love, forgiveness, encouragement, or even financial advice. At times several people may say the same thing to you which would indicate a need for urgent action. The important thing to do is to step back and ask yourself, “Is this, Jesus speaking into my darkness?” As often as you do it you acknowledge Jesus in your life and allow him to guide you to life.
Jesus is busy in your daily life because he loves you, and cares for you as he does all people everywhere. He wants you and all people to have life and have it abundantly. He is the light of the world and the light of life. When you follow Jesus in this way, you will become like him, you will become a light of life for the people around you.
When Jesus speaks into your darkness he will bring forth life, perhaps not a hippopotamus or an aardvark, but look for something unexpected and wondrous. In the beginning, when God spoke into the darkness and created life he saw that it was good.
All praise and glory to God for he speaks into our darkness and brings forth life.