The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 99: Light and Dark
Hello friends. As I sit and write these words to you, the house is dark. I’m here next to a snoozing pup in a dark room which is illuminated only by my laptop screen, two candles, and the stringed lights that we just put up outside on the front porch. Twinkling lights are such a beautiful part of this time of year, aren’t they? As we enter into a season of holidays this week: Thanksgiving and Advent leading up to Christmas, we who live in the Northern hemisphere will experience increasing darkness. This reality will be reflected in the readings at church and the seasonal music, all too relatable as the sun goes down each day before we can eat our dinners. But today I’d like to talk about the darkness as opportunity. In this season we can find, identify, produce, and spread more light within ourselves, our communities, the church and the world, and the truth is that it’s the darkness that allows the light to shine even brighter. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” A small light is quite a powerful thing in a dark world. So, as we enter into this holy time, how can we find and reflect more light?
Well, first, let’s ask the question: what is light for? What is light’s purpose? Light is used to help us to see in the dark. Light illuminates, it reveals what is hidden. Light brings comfort and clarity, and often joy. A light can show us which way to go.
In the Book of Luke, we find shepherds in a field keeping watch over their flocks by night. As the passage goes, ‘An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
That must have been quite something to see, don’t you think? The night sky filled with light which first frightened, but then focused the shepherds who went immediately to see Jesus. Weeks later, it was a star in another dark sky which led the Magi on a similar pilgrimage. In each case, there was darkness and there was light which led humans just like you and me to seek and to find Jesus Himself, Jesus who is the Light.
Jesus called Himself “the light of the world” in the Book of John, chapter 8, and this is one of those times that author C.S. Lewis refers to when he makes his famous argument about Jesus as ‘liar, lunatic or lord’. In it, Lewis says,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic– on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg– or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Ah, I love C.S. Lewis, don’t you? He gets right to it. But yes, Jesus did describe Himself in this way:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I wonder, if Jesus really is the light of the world, what does that practically mean for we who profess Him?
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, foretold the birth of Jesus with a similar description of light coming into darkness. He said of his son, John, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Do you hear that language here, friend: Jesus the Rising Sun, Jesus the light, Jesus the path of peace, Jesus the way.
From before the beginning of the world, Jesus was pre-destined to be that light in the darkness for us. It was true over 2,000 years ago, and it’s still true today.
So, how can we focus in this coming stretch of time to make room for the light of the world?
I have lots of ideas about prayer, reflection, and other helpful practices in episode 49, which is called Advent: Behold Your God, and I’ll link that for you in today’s show notes, but I do think it’s worth reflecting this year on just how dark it actually is, and maybe on locating dark areas so that we can welcome, identify, and bring more light to those places which really need it.
Let’s start with ourselves. Let’s ask a hard question together, friend. Are you ready?
“Where is the darkness within me?”
It is so easy to blame other people for the state of things, and we American Christians can be so good at doing just that, but looking within ourselves, at our communities, our country, and our church with a discerning lens might be a great practice for us this Advent. We people of faith can so easily shake our fists at the people out there when really it’s our responsibility to address the darkness within. Let’s start by taking a look at ourselves and lighting small candles in our own dark spaces through honest reflection, prayer, repentance and action and then working our way out in the communities that we are a part of. This is the way we’re meant to grow and to glow, by the way, from the inside out.
And it’s the hardest thing to do, isn’t it?
As it says in the Book of John, chapter 3:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
We humans prefer darkness. In fact, the light often frightens us, just as it did the shepherds in the field that night. Light can be shocking but as they say, light is also the best disinfectant. Light shows us things as they actually are, not as we wish they were or think they are. Light requires a response. And because of that, letting light in can be costly, but as Christians, friend, it really is what we are called to.
The word ‘holiday’ comes from two old English words which mean ‘holy’ and ‘day’. We think of the holiday season as festive, joyous, fun, and gosh, I hope it is exactly that for you and me and our dear ones this year, friend, I really do. But if we can approach the coming days with intention around naming what is dark, and then asking God to be light in those places, even if that feels a little scary – we can make this holiday season a truly holy one.
In my home, I’m stringing lights and I’m lighting candles. I’m enjoying the coziness and comfort the light brings, sure, but I also hope these practices remind me to stop, to reflect, to let the light reveal what is hidden in the dark and then to show me the way forward. By the time Christmas comes, I want to have been walking toward Jesus the whole way along. I want to meet Emmanuel, God with us, with a light heart.
In twelve chapter of John, Jesus warns the disciples that the time is short. This was a message, of course, for the followers of Jesus in their own time, but we can and should take it in for ourselves, too, because, friend, our time is also short. I hope these words will remind you and me to seek light, to welcome light, and be light in this broken world in the limited time we are given, so I’ll close with this today. Jesus says,
“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
In these holy days, friend, let’s do the hard and intentional work. Let’s make room. Let’s make space. Let’s be children of the light.
Thanks so much for listening today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Oh God in these dark days, you are illuminating what is hidden. You are light. Help us to see and to follow and to make a home for you. We pray for us and our dear ones, that these will be truly holy days. In the name of Jesus who is light, we pray, amen.
Thanks so much for listening today, friend. I’ll see you next time.
This week we’re exploring Biblical references to light amid the darkness in an effort to enter into the holiday season with intention and joy. Let’s meet Jesus who is light by naming the spaces that need light and inviting God in.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Raised Catholic episode 49 – Advent: Behold Your God (check out the show notes for ideas on specific Advent practices)
2. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
3. Song: You Are The Light, by Sarah Hart
4. Song: Lead, Kindly Light, by Audrey Assad
5. Video: Handel’s Messiah Part 1, performed by the Handel and Haydn Society
6. Article: Become the Light, by Michael Simone at America Magazine
7. Daily Podcast: The Examen, with Fr. James Martin
8. Practice: light a candle and journal with these questions:
Where is the darkness in me? What is a small step I can take to address it?
Where is the darkness in the places, spaces and groups I’m a part of?
How can I bring more light to the places and people around me?