A Light in the Darkness

by Reverend Amanda

Epiphany Sunday

Years ago, while in seminary, one the jobs I had on campus was night watch. I basically worked for the maintenance department and my job was to lock up the campus at night, check the furnace rooms to make sure everything was running smoothly, let people into their rooms when they locked themselves out, to handle any off-hours emergencies and to know who to contact in a real emergency. There were three of us that constituted night watch. I regularly would go out at midnight to lock up the classroom and office buildings, the library, the chapel, the cafeteria, and check on all the furnaces on campus.

People would tell me, I was crazy to be willing to walk the buildings alone in the dark. Now you might think they were worried about getting attacked but a surprising amount of these students were more worried about the “ghosts” that they believed haunted the campus. None of that bothered me. I had gotten so used to this job that I would walk the hallways in the dark not bothering to turn on the lights until I got to the furnace rooms. I knew the underground tunnels that connected the classroom building to the office building. I knew the pathways that took me to the roof where I could look out and see the light pollution of Boston.

I used to laugh at the shear panic other students had believing these buildings to be haunted. I walked them alone in the middle of the night all the time and never once heard or saw anything that would lead one to believe in the presence of ghosts.

I walked those hallways feeling with my feet along the floor and my hands on the walls. In life, we often find ourselves walking along in a similar darkness. The coming of Jesus put an end to our wondering in the darkness. He is the light to the world that has been here since the beginning of time and still shines forth in the world offering to guide us through all the experiences of this life if we only accept that light and allow for it to shine forth from our hearts. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world”.[1] Christ’s light is intended to inspire such hope, such light inside of us, that the evidence of that light shines forth from within us to drive away despair, to drive away the darkness of this world that prevents so many from accepting the light of God in their own lives.

Our world today is not too different from the world that people of Jesus’ time were living in. They, like us, found themselves wandering around through the darkness of human life: a life filled with illnesses, death, oppression, and abuses. They struggled every day feeling overwhelmed and generally devoid of hope. When life throws stresses, curve balls, and when humanity offers judgment, hate, and oppression in response to such stressors it becomes easy to descend further and further into darkness. In that darkness, we may feel separated from God and faith becomes more and more challenging to maintain. Prayer may become something that is harder to participate in. And we may find that the song of praise that was once upon our hearts begins to feel disingenuous.

This is how the people of Jesus’ world felt and, in our world, where Covid-19 is spreading like wild fire, where there are natural disasters tearing apart communities and people’s homes, where people are feeling oppressed, and where violence and aggression are a constant presence, we too are in desperate need of the same hope. I look around and I see a world that has lost all hope and many have asked me where is God in these experiences? We often walk through this life in the dark trying desperately to feel our way through. Find comfort for there is hope even in the midst of these struggles; hope even in the midst of pain; hope in the midst of pandemic and frustrations.

It may not be obvious but it is in the darkest times of life that God is working and I believe he is on the cusp of doing something great. Our scriptures for this morning couldn’t be more poignant, more appropriate when John writes, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.[2] These passages remind us that Christ is here in the dark times of life, times that challenge us so deeply that our faith begins to falter. He is here and has faced the worst that life has to offer to show us that he understands our struggles and our causes of doubt. And through all of that we are offered comfort and eternal life.

That eternal life is a cause for hope and joy in these adverse times. That light shines out in the darkness in the lives of those who haven’t given up hope, who push forward hopeful of the life to come and certain of the presence of a loving God even if he can’t always be felt. So, let’s trust in the work of God, let’s find comfort in the wonderful things he has already done, let’s find hope in the knowledge that right now he is working on something great for the future. In the meantime, let’s live into that hope, into that light by working for his mission by finding purpose through the care for neighbor, by finding release through the act of prayer, and by finding emotional expression through the songs that we sing. The light came to a world living in darkness in 4 AD and once again we have found ourselves searching for that light to shine forth. So, embrace the possibilities of what God will do and continue moving forward in his work. Recommit yourself to the search for God and the mission that offers to bring hope to a world in need.

[1] Nathaniel Hawthorne, 19th century American author.

[2] John 1: 3-5, NRSV.