A few years ago, my young daughter called to me from her bedroom. “Daddy, come here.” Standing in the kitchen, I looked toward her bedroom and saw it was dark in there. I said, “Be there in just a second.” But I took a minute before I went in. Sometimes I get tired of the darkness.
The prophet Isaiah says, “We hope for light, but behold, darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men…we stumble at midday as in the twilight, among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.” Have you ever felt like this? Like you were stumbling through the darkness? Like you were sleepwalking through the land of the living? Like you were struggling to see clearly at midday? Like your energy was on empty? Like your inspiration had reached its expiration? Like you were just going through the motions? It’s enough to make us want to pull the covers over our head and stay in bed all day.
But then, Isaiah declares, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Just in time, God’s light has burst through the clouds. We’ve been stumbling through the darkness, but no more. We’ve been going through the motions, but no more. This is the good news of Epiphany, a time when Christians celebrate God’s revelation to us in Jesus Christ. Christ is the light of the world. Just as a light shows us what we can’t see clearly in the dark, Jesus sheds light on God’s identity. He throws light upon the very face of God. He shows us God’s love, God’s righteousness, and God’s power.
A problem occurs, though, when we get a flash of this light and then go running off into the darkness to share it. I know Jesus says we are the light of the world, and I know he calls us to let our light shine. But if we spend most of our time in the darkness, our light is likely to grow dim, especially when we’re so busy that we’re running around everywhere a hundred miles an hour. I was reminded again on Christmas Eve that you can’t run with a candle.
I’m afraid we spend more time trying to shine than we do simply basking in the light of Christ. We are to shine, yes, but we don’t have any light of our own. We glow because the light of Christ reflects on us. In a sense, we are like the moon, which has no light of its own, but brightens the darkness as it reflects the light of the sun. Similarly, we brighten this gloomy world when we reflect the light of Christ that is beaming upon us.
Hard as it is to imagine, our first priority as Christians is not to go and serve the world. It’s to bask in the light of Christ. His light makes us shimmer with warm love that we desperately need for ourselves before we share it with anyone else. His light makes us glimmer with bright joy that we desperately need for ourselves before we share it with anyone else. The bottom line is, we are to glow before we go.
Imagine if we at First Baptist Church—and if Christians at churches all over the world—were to bask in the light of Christ so thoroughly that we started to glow. We would glow with a warm love that shines on the righteous and the unrighteous. We would glow with the radiant forgiveness that has taken our own guilt away. We would glow with the bright joy of the kingdom of heaven. We would glow with a peace that surpasses all understanding. We would glow with the humility that comes with knowing we are all beloved children of God.
If we were to glow like this, people would be drawn to us. Indeed, says Isaiah, “Nations will come to your light…They all gather together; they come to you.” The light of Christ has a magnetism that draws others in.
On the night my daughter called to me as I stood in the kitchen, I finally went into her dark bedroom. She pointed up at her wall. And there, I saw a star glowing in neon green. I could see her smiling beneath it. She said, “Isn’t that cool, Daddy?” I said, “Yes, sweetheart. It’s always cool when something glows in the dark.”
Pastor Noel Schoonmaker
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN