“The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
A few of our Christmas decorations are hanging on round here. A wreath on the door, a few ornaments that have become permanent fixtures in the playmobil bin, and a star shaped light that hangs in our front window.
When it came time to tuck away all the decorations for another year, I was not quite ready to put away the star light and, if you will permit me, I would like to tell you why.
It all started a few months ago.
During Advent, many of our close friends were struggling. The difficulties spanned the gamut : expected and unexpected death, diagnosis for the young and old, chronic illness, mental illness, people lonely and homesick, and then the general difficulties of being human.
The reality of their real and present sufferings were weighing on my own heart.
One particular night, after my family had gone to sleep, I was thinking off all these friends and their difficult situations and the darkness of the northern winter night felt tangible, close, and thick. The weight of all the sufferings was smothering out any hope that I had. How were they all to survive their difficult situations?
I was completely unable to fix any of the problems and I felt a deep ache in my self.
As I went to close up the house for the night, I felt a prompt from God to leave the star light on. I felt God saying, “The darkness isn’t winning. Leave the light on as a reminder that I am greater than the darkness. Leave it on as a prayer for those that you are unable to fix. Leave it on as a declaration that I have overcome the world, that I am close to the broken hearted, that I do not sleep but watch over those you love. Leave on the star light and entrust your friends to me.”
And so I left it on. And I have left it on every night since. And, to be honest, I leave it on during the day too.
God saw me in my fear, like a disciple on the boat being tossed by the waves. He reached down out of his graciousness to my mind and gave me a reminder of his care. A star light.
I need a reminder because, you see, sometimes I forget. I forget to pray and I forget that God IS greater. I forget that the light has shone in the darkness and that the light has actually come. Sometimes, I need a star light to remind me, to push me to pray, and to trust. I need a star light to “keep looking up” and to push back the darkness that I so easily succumb to.
John, the disciple, opens his gospel with a string of verses about “the light”. The light he is talking about is, of course, Jesus. And he writes, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Jesus’ presence in the world is a light shining with such strength that the darkness cannot overtake it, the darkness cannot obtain it, the darkness can not even understand it. It cannot be extinguished because it is an everlasting light. The light and love of Jesus are more powerful and brilliant than the darkest dark. There is no place too dark for the love of Jesus. It does not discriminate and nothing escapes its glow. The light of Jesus shines.
Like a sunrise - warm, beautiful, unstoppable, and unhindered. There is no competition between the sun and the darkness of the night. The sun simply appears and the darkness dissipates.
The lamp is a small reminder that moves me to lift my friends to the one who can do something, to the one who is present with each of them, to the one who is and will sustain them.
It feels like a small gesture, to be sure. It is my small prophetic act. A small declaration that Jesus is the light of the world. But every prayer that we utter is small and is only made great by the one who hears it and answers it. For He is greater.
The lamp is only a reminder of a deeper and greater truth that Jesus has overcome the world. And I need daily reminder of it. I need a daily reminder of that hope for the sin and brokenness I find within and for the sin and brokenness I see in the world. It reminds my heart of what Paul said, in the face of his own difficulties, “but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
God is not dead. Jesus is alive. This little lamp is reminding me that I rely on a God who raises the dead. And when the darkness feels too close, I turn on the lamp and Jesus pushes back the darkness.
Maybe you would like to join me - light a candle, a star light, a lamp, with a prayer to the one who is called the Bright and Morning Star. As a reminder that his light shines bold, bright, and brilliant in the darkness. A reminder that there is hope. A prophetic act that points to a time when we will no longer need to leave lights on because we will bask in the light of he who gave the sun its brightness.
May each of you be filled more and more with the light of Jesus in your hearts. And may we grow to be a hope filled people that stand in the gap for those that are suffering, vessels for the light of Jesus into the darkness.