|Image courtesy of Chris Sharp/FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5 (RSV)
When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. That was because my brother and sister, both older than me, would scare me with ghost stories and hide in the dark, making mysterious noises. I had a vivid imagination even then, and their antics only increased my fear. When I went upstairs at night, I had to flip every light switch along the way, and I couldn’t fall asleep unless the hall light at the bottom of the stairs was turned on, its beams reaching into my bedroom, dispelling the darkness and calming my fears.
When I grew up, however, I learned that no spooks lurked in the darkness, waiting to harm me, and the darkness held no real threat. But still, inky blackness had the power to resurrect old fears buried deep in the recesses of my heart.
I remember one time my husband, I and our three children were camping, and all the lights were extinguished. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand two inches from my face. My heart began to beat faster, and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
“Calm down,” I scolded myself. I thought about turning on the reading light and reading through the night until I fell asleep, but the light would disturb my husband. So I squeezed my eyes shut, pulled the covers over my head and forced myself to breathe deeply and slowly – and think about something other than the blackness that still held terror for me.
While adults may scoff at a child’s (or another adult’s) fear of the dark, I believe we need to respect it for its power, for good and for evil.
The Bible tells us there are three kinds of darkness: Physical darkness is the absence of light and can be both good (rest) and bad. Our fears, worries and heartaches are felt more acutely at night, looming larger than in the light of the day. Spiritual darkness, which is not knowing what is right and true, also represents everything evil, gloomy or hopeless. Eternal darkness is hell, the absence of God.
As Christians, we are to avoid spiritual darkness, respect its power to destroy and send us into eternal darkness, but not fear it. Why?
“I am the light of the world,” Jesus tells us in John 8:12. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus, the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the child born in Bethlehem, the God-man who never sinned and became the perfect sacrifice, paying the punishment for our sin by shedding His blood and dying on a cross so that the darkness will no longer have power over us. Jesus, whose name means “God will save,” who overcame the eternal darkness of death and rose from the grave, continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not, and cannot – ever – overpower Him.
Like that hall light when I was a child, His beams of love and life continue to reach me, surrounding me, enfolding me, dispelling the darkness around me and calming my fears. I know I need never be afraid of the dark anymore.
As I light the fourth Advent candle, dear God, remind me that in this season of long, dark nights, that I never need to fear the dark, as long as I walk in the light. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read John 1:1–18