A sermon from 13 January 2002
“The Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:15-16)
“God said, ‘let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1: 3)
On the first day of creation, God creates Light, day and night. According to Genesis this was 3 days before God created the sun, the moon or the stars for these celestial bodies were not created until the 4th day of creation. God creates light without the sun and God creates day and night without the sun.
God drives back the darkness which covered the face of the earth, and since that beginning of creation there has always been light upon the earth.
How then did the Prophet Isaiah say that there was a people who sat in darkness when God had already created the light? And how is it that the Evangelist Matthew saw the coming of Christ as the dawning of light if light had already existed for thousands of years?
Because LIGHT is not limited to its literal meaning.
Indeed as quantum mechanics shows light to have both the properties of matter and energy and thus defies being limited to one or the other, so even the word “light” has meaning beyond the literal. We speak in the church of Baptism being holy illumination. We speak of Jesus being the light of evening. Light comes to us in many forms.
Recently scientists discovered some cave etchings thought to be 77,000 years old. These drawings showed human ancestors had some symbolic thinking capabilities already at that time. As scientists see it, the dawn of mankind occurred that long ago and man has been progressing as evolution unfolds into a being capable of greater abstract thought, greater problem solving skills, greater intelligence. Humankind has become more enlightened in terms of intelligence, and yet a darkness remains.
Knowledge of God is revelation from God – another enlightenment. The light and darkness of the world have been thought of symbolically by humans for millennia.
John, the Evangelist and Theologian, wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5) “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” (3:19)
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
We can have all the light that this world has to offer – knowledge, intelligence, or sunshine, but without God, we still will be in that darkness which sunshine cannot drive away. Jesus came into the world to bring us the knowledge of God. This is a light that we will not find by studying science or books. It is an enlightenment which reveals to us that there are other realms than just the physical world. Science can study the physical world and all about it, but science cannot study the light which comes from God. But it is this light which comes from God which makes us to be fully human.
The light which God created before there was a sun, which battles the darkness which overshadows the hearts and minds of mankind on the sunniest days, is given to us to give to others. For Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14) God does not withhold this light from us and say, “spend your whole life searching for that which is beyond your grasp.” Rather God not only brings us to the light, He allows us to become that light.
My friends, this gift of light was given to each of us at our baptism. Use the light to enlighten others. Use the light to do what St. Paul taught us in his epistle to the Ephesians – “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). It is so easy to tear down. It is so easy to point out the faults of others. It is so easy to criticize, condemn and complain about others, about the parish, about the church. But if that is all that we have to offer, we live in darkness. Become a light to the world, to the parish, to your family. Let the knowledge of God shine in you so that others too can see the work of God, His love and His salvation. Jesus did not teach you to criticize others, to condemn others, to complain about others. Jesus said to you, “Be the light to the world.” Amen.