I have a confession to make. I’m scared of the dark. Well, let me clarify that. I am, in fact, downright terrified of the dark in certain situations. Oh, I’m okay at home in bed at night. I don’t need a nightlight or get scared that there are monsters under the bed. But if I have to walk outside to my car in a parking lot after dark, yeah, I’m scared. Walking into a dark church to practice organ is a terrifying experience for me. I literally break into a sweat walking past all those empty pews to get to the organ. I’ve even had my husband come over with me on occasion if I’m really spooked. There’s just something about darkness that’s unsettling. Anything could be lurking out there. And my imagination works overtime in the dark, as all those urban legends come to mind. Darkness can be a very scary thing. Turn on a light, however, and everything changes. Once I turn on the lights in the sanctuary, I still have to walk past all those empty pews, but I’m not afraid anymore. The light is assuring, comforting, showing me that my path is clear.
If literal darkness can be a scary thing, spiritual darkness is even more terrifying. And maybe that’s why I love Epiphany so much. Epiphany (which begins tomorrow) is all about light, revealing, making clear. Jesus is, as Simeon sang, a “light to lighten the Gentiles.” You see, we were all lost in spiritual darkness until God revealed Himself to us. And how exactly did He do that? Through the life and work of His Son, Jesus. Epiphany isn’t just about the Wise Men coming to see the young Jesus. Yes, that’s part of it, because it was God revealing Himself to (gasp!) Gentiles. The Jews expected a Savior just for the Jews, so the fact that the Gentiles were included in God’s plan was surprising. But past the Wise Men, Epiphany explores the work of Jesus as He made Himself known in the world through His public ministry, namely His baptism and His miracles. With each new revelation, His work became a bit clearer, as if the light was gradually getting stronger. And ironically, that culminated on Good Friday, when the light actually seemed to be snuffed out. Jesus’ atoning death was the reason He came to earth, and then the light shined even more brightly when He burst forth from that tomb on Easter Sunday.
Yes, we will still face all kinds of things in this world. We will face hardship, sickness, despair, even death. But faith in Jesus gives meaning even to these things. We know that there’s more awaiting us after we die. We know that we aren’t just aimlessly wandering through this life. Death isn’t the end. We will live forever in heaven, where “[we] will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be [our] light,” (Revelation 22:5). Imagine a place with no darkness at all. What a comforting thought indeed!
The world can be a scary place. There are all kinds of temptations and false teachings lurking out there that would like to destroy us. But don’t fear. Jesus declares in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He illumines our path, shows us the way to go. In a world of darkness and sin, we find our way only through God’s Word. And the best part is that He equips us to reflect His light as well. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” You know the way. You have the Light. Don’t keep it to yourself. There are plenty of people out there still stumbling around in the darkness, trying to find their way, scared of this darkness. Shine the light of Jesus so they, too, can walk in the light. There’s no reason to be afraid anymore.