“Longing for light, we wait in darkness…” begins the hymn “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell. A few years ago, I was in Iqaluit in January when the choir at my church was learning this hymn. “This was one for you,” the musician had said, as clearly I had complained about the darkness to her. That’s because it was after 10 in the morning before you could turn off the lights in the place where I was staying and it was just after lunch when it got dark again. It felt stifling. I get the same feeling as we approach the shortest day of the year in December and as we go through the winter months. The feeling doesn’t leave me until the days begin to lengthen substantially leading up to my favourite day of the year, the summer solstice.
So because of that, I have really come to appreciate the season of Epiphany, a season with such emphasis on light and on Jesus as the light of the world. As we read in the gospel of John, “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.” John 1:3b-4. The refrain of “Christ, Be Our Light” puts it this way:
“Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.”
We are surrounded by enough darkness in the world—nearly two years of living with this pandemic, war and conflict and violence, hungry and homeless people, millions of refugees, our neighbours around the world suffering from hunger and the effects of natural disasters—so much hurt and pain. We also know darkness in our own lives through experiences like loss and grief, broken friendships and relationships, our own hurts, unemployment, the stress and demands of making a living, spiritual hunger, depression, anxiety, other mental or physical illness. And much more.
Into that darkness comes the light of Christ shining in us, through us and through those around us. In the season of Epiphany, we hear of the call of the disciples, how they came to reflect the light of Christ in their own lives and the lives of others and we come to understand how we are called to do the same. Even though the darkness may seem, at times, insurmountable, the smallest gesture of kindness or love can totally pierce it. In fact, it’s when the darkness is at its greatest, the light is needed the most. As theologian Samuel Ryan said “A candle is a protest at midnight. It is a non-conformist. It says to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ.’”
I am reminded of another hymn, this time by Jim Strathdee: “‘I am the light of the world!
You people come and follow me!’
If you follow and love you’ll learn the mystery
of what you were meant to do and be.”