When Christianity was embraced by the Taoist Chinese in the seventh century, they called it “the light religion”. Everywhere in the New Testament the metaphor of light is used to clarify aspects of our faith.
Jesus is identified as the light of the world. Even in our two short passages from Isaiah and Luke 2, three different facets of what that can mean are included. Isaiah foretells the coming of Jesus (see this taken up in Matthew 4:16) as a light to people condemned to live in a dark place. This is light as salvation, comfort, rescue, and hope. In the Song of Simeon (sometimes called the Nunc Dimittis) in Luke 2, the light of Jesus is seen both as revelation – opening the eyes of the Gentiles to new truth – and as glory, the radiance or shekinah of God in the midst of his people.
Our text from John 3 identifies the necessity of light for discernment, for the exposure of truth and reality. Our text from Matthew 6 considers how what we focus on illuminates our thinking and experience – if we focus on goodness, our whole selves and lives are enlightened. If we focus on evil, in place of illumination we have only shadows and confusion.
The passage from Matthew 5 looks at light as radiance – goodness which both lights up the world and shines a spotlight on the beauty of God. And our Corinthians passage reminds us to be mindful of how we live, remembering that the day will come when the light of God will reveal everything we chose and did for what it really is. Light is about integrity.
Can you think of examples of light that you have found especially beautiful?
Can you think of lives or actions you have known whose faith and goodness made them seem to shine?
At Christmas time, the pure white light of God comes to earth in the multicoloured lights of humanity. What colour light would you be, and why?
Jesus, light of the world, shine into our hearts and expose what is really there. Where there is sadness and gloom, may your light shine joyfully. Where there are shadows of pretence and hypocrisy, may the radiance of your truth chase them away. May your light so illumine our hearts and minds that our lives may shine forth like lanterns of hope, and beacons of the gospel of truth. This we ask in your holy name; Amen.