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Longest Night: Darkness & Light

A refeflection on John 1:1-4

(Photo by Prateek Gautam on Unsplash)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

For many years, I found this pronouncement… unsatisfying.

“…the darkness did not overcome it….” Seriously? That’s all we can say? The light of God, the life-giving power of creation… didn’t totally fail? It …hung in there?

Is that really all we’ve got?

Why even mention it then? Why bring up the darkness at all? The opening of the Gospel of John starts with such impressive grandeur, with the Word that was God, and all things coming into being through him. Why… weaken it all with the claim that the light… doesn’t get completely snuffed out?

For the longest time, I thought this was one of scripture’s biggest marketing mis-steps… until I realized that my problem was reading John’s prologue with the expectations of a marketing culture. I’m so used to being sold things, that I just assumed the gospel wanted to sell me something too.

But it doesn’t. It just wants to tell us the truth about how God comes to us. And the truth about how God comes to us includes the truth that God comes to us where we are, even when where we are is the longest night of the year, when there isn’t much light, and the cold presses is, and all the theological language in the world cannot banish the ever-present darkness. It’s not too dark for God to find us.

And that might actually be the best news there is. Because it means we can be honest. We don’t have to pretend to be bright and shiny all the time. We can sit in the dark if the dark is what we need.

The truth is, sometimes I need a God who will sit in the dark with me:

When life is overwhelming, or when I am just sad…

When I am tired of trying to keep up with my own and everyone else’s expectations…

When I need to tell the truth about what I am grieving, or the ways I feel inadequate, or the worries I have for what is coming in the future….

In times like that, I need a God who understands that sometimes the dark feels safer, even more sacred, than bright, shining light. We don’t have to perform in the dark. We can ugly-cry in the dark. We can sit still and just breathe in the dark.

And the good news for us tonight is that God will join us in the dark with a light that shines just bright enough to let us know we are not alone. The darkness will not overcome it.

When the only story we hear about God is all about the majesty and wonder… all about light, and life, and the power of creation… it came make God seem inaccessible. Or, at least, it can make us feel like we can only bring the most impressive parts of ourselves into God’s presence.

But the God who spoke creation into being created both light AND dark. God is made known in the Word, but also in the blessed silence. And God birthed in us the whole range of human emotions, knowing that we need them all.

So, on this longest night, when the darkness stretches out its arms to hold us, let us find God’s small, accompanying light in that embrace. We can celebrate the gentle light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. This is the light of real life, the light that welcomes all people in all the honesty of our humanness.

This is the light that reminds us that we never have to play pretend for God.

Thanks be to God.


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