By NEMS Daily Journal
Churches that follow the liturgical calendar brought a close to the 12-day Christmas season last Wednesday and ushered in Epiphany, the season of light.
Epiphany marks the revelation to the world of Jesus as God’s chosen messiah, exemplified by the visit of the Magi – the three wise men – to the baby in Bethlehem. They were guided by a great light, a star in the east, that led them to the manger.
Light is a metaphor used throughout the Bible, from Genesis forward, to express both the countenance and illuminating truth of God and Jesus Christ. God begins the act of creation by saying, “Let there be light,” and numerous are the references in the Old Testament to God as light and the illuminator of darkness. In the New Testament, the familiar passage from the first chapter of the Gospel of John is perhaps the most vivid metaphorical description of the light of Christ:
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
As with so much in the New Testament, this passage and others build on and illuminate the language and prophetic proclamations of the Hebrew scriptures.
But Jesus moves beyond the description of light as emanating solely from divine sources. In the Gospel of Matthew he proclaims to his followers, “You are the light of the world” and tells them not to hide that light under a bushel. Do good works, he says, and the world will notice and want to know more.
It is this concept that Christians sometimes find difficult to take to heart. Acknowledgment of Christ as the light of the world is one thing; seeing ourselves as bearers of that light is entirely another. We can intellectually, spiritually and even emotionally assent to the reality of Jesus as light. It’s tougher to know how to be, in his stead, the light of the world.
Living like Christ isn’t easy. It’s much harder than acknowledging him as the Son of God. But clearly what Jesus desires is for his followers to be Christ-like, the best way for others to “see your good works and give glory to your father in Heaven.”
“Good works” suggests an active, engaged discipleship, not merely a satisfied state of inner spiritual peace. The peace of Christ, the light of Christ, requires the next step of sharing that light with others in tangible acts of love, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. This is the best evangelism, the kind that pierces the world’s seemingly impenetrable darkness with the light of Christ-like attitudes and actions.
The opportunities to bear light in the darkness abound every day. The world – and our small corners of it – need the illumination as much or more now than ever. Light-bearing means more than proclaiming; it requires doing as well. So much of the time, we would prefer to curse the darkness. Those who take the Scriptures seriously know that that is not an option for the faithful.