“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)
Today, I am thinking about light. I love the light. I especially love the sunlight in the morning as it hits the mountains behind my neighborhood. The effect of the light is different in each season. We’re in the middle of winter now and the illumination of the morning sun sometimes come in hues of red and orange that tint the hills with a beautiful luster. I like the light of the evening as well, when the sun sets, and the mountains become shadow-casters well before the official moment of sunset. There is still light in the world; a light that fades to dusk, then darkness, and the long night. I am glad the hours of darkness are growing shorter now. Because I really love the light.
The scriptures, too, are filled with light. God created the light in the beginning. The light of God’s glory—a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night—shows the Hebrew people through the darkness of the Sinai nights. In the Psalms, God is said to be a light to His people. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1). And in the New Testament, God’s light comes into the world in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The theme of light and life is woven throughout the gospels. This is most apparent in the Gospel of John. In John, we find the direct connection between Jesus and light, and Jesus as the life of the world. Speaking about John the Baptist, the Apostle John writes: “he himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9). And Jesus himself said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Wait a minute. “As long as I am in the world?” What about afterwards? What about when Jesus is no longer in the world, what then? Is there no light from God?
Well, yes, there is light. Jesus remains the light—he is the source of light and of the life that comes from God, the Father, Son, and Spirit. And we play a role in sharing this light of life. From Matthew we hear Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount as he told his followers to be a lamp to the world. “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:15). From this we understand we are not the light; we are the lamps, set on tables wherever we may be, in whatever settings we find ourselves, to reflect the light of God’s love into the darkened world around us.
Being a lamp is an honorable thing. Lamps give light to their surroundings, they make it possible for others to see, for others to see things that need seeing, and to do things that need doing. Lamps do not have an endless supply of power to shine their lights, though. They need refueling from time to time.
All this is true for us when we are lamps for Jesus. We shine the light of God’s light when we call out injustice in the world. When we are at God’s best for our lives, we show others, by our example, how to live in love with God and with each other. And we refuel by immersing ourselves in God through reading the Bible, worshiping God, prayer, fasting, and living in community with one another.
Presidential inaugurations are impressive displays of our nation’s commitment to government of, by, and for the people. The speeches that are given frequently draw on biblical imagery to inspire us, as a nation, to seek the greater good for all. One speech, a poem actually, that achieved this and more was the reading by Amanda Gorman of her poem “The Hill We Climb.” I loved the way she used the imagery from the prophet Micah of a society where there is justice, where every person has what they need: “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.” (You can find the passage at Micah 4:4).
But it was the closing lines of the poem that brought up the promise of the light:
“When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
I hope we can allow the light of God’s love to shine through us as we reflect the Divine Light of Jesus Christ into our world. Look around. See who in your “orbit” needs a good word or a kind action to help get them through then day. Then, be the light they need to see. For there is always light in Jesus Christ. Let’s be brave enough to share it.