The world is a dark place. It is darkened by an abundance of famine, injustice, war, abuse, destruction, addiction. The list goes on. At the root of it all is the persistent and pervasive presence of sin. Sin darkens every corner of the earth, including the pews of the church and the depths of the human heart.
But God speaks light into the darkness and renews us with the hope that one day the darkness will be snuffed out for good and the light will be here to stay. The light is of course Jesus Christ himself and, more broadly, the kingdom of God of which Jesus is Lord and king.
Hope directs our eyes to the future. We look forward to that day when the light will shine in all its fullness and the darkness will be no more. But as we lift up our gaze to our future hope, we must not forget that the promised eternal light has already made its way into our present darkness. The kingdom of God is not only a future hope, but a reality for the here-and-now.
In his first letter the Apostle John makes this abundantly clear when we writes:
Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.1 John 2:8
The true light is not waiting for a decisive day when it will suddenly and brilliantly pierce the black night. It has already arrived and is already shining. The bright rays of a new day are breaking in on the long night, and while it is true that the light is not yet fully visible in all its dazzling glory, that does not mean it cannot be seen at all.
The very fact that the light is already shining means that the darkness must be passing away. Darkness is no match for the light and so where the light is approaching the darkness is dissipating.
So, how has the light come? Where can you see the ever-advancing light of the kingdom of God? In his gospel, John begins by telling us that in Jesus “was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Clearly, it is Jesus himself who is the true light pushing back the murky darkness and ushering in everlasting Day. Wherever Jesus is, there is the light.
But we cannot end there. Jesus has come into the darkness, but at present he sits on a throne in the heavens. The light of Jesus continues to shine down here on earth because he has sent, through His Spirit, his life and light to dwell in those who believe in Him. We, as Christians and as Church, are the light and we are the kingdom of God made visible to a dying world.
How do we shine the light of Jesus? In his short letter John gives us many examples of how we might do that, but perhaps the summary of all those commands is this: “walk just as he walked” (1 John 1:6). When we walk as Jesus walked, when we walk in the light; when we flee the darkness, then we are shining the true light and are pointing the world forward to the Day when light will reign supreme.
As church we are not called to merely huddle together and safeguard the light until the day arrives, but rather to step out boldly into the dark world and hold the light overhead as evidence to the world that the True light is approaching and the darkness is passing away.