Summary: An Easter sermon on the light of Christ that over powers all the darkness of this world!
Darkness is a funny thing, isn't it? We have to have darkness; it helps us get better sleep. Sometimes in the midst of a headache or an especially sunny day, we long for a few moments of darkness. Darkness is good for a movie or a haunted house. But then again, too much darkness can be a bad thing as well. In the long, dark days of winter, we yearn for the Spring and more hours of daylight. Darkness can be scary, and oppressive, and depressing. And it can hold great power over us as well.
Have you ever experienced total darkness? I’m not talking about our “modern darkness,” which means that the light is coming from something other than the sun. I’m talking about complete blackness. Once, when I was in elementary school, I spent the night in a cave with my Girl Scout Troop. We did lots of fun stuff that night, but one of the most memorable experiences was turning out our flashlights in the deep, dark recesses of the cave. That was complete darkness. I could sense my eyes trying to adjust and find light by which to make my surroundings visible, but it was impossible; there was no light. Part of the reason this experience was so memorable was because it was also a bit scary. I knew my eyes were working, and yet I could see nothing; not even the faintest glimmer of light.
The people of Jesus' day did not have the modern conveniences that you and I have; no electric lamps, street lights, spot lights, or bright stadium lighting. They could not flip a switch in a dark house or turn a flashlight on in a dark cave. They used oil lamps in their homes and businesses, which produced meager light at best. In fact, so lacking were the lighting options of Jesus’ day (even up to the invention of electricity barely more than a century ago) that people’s schedules revolved around the rising and setting of the sun; people were up with the sun in the morning, and often when night fell they would go straight to bed. And as I'm sure many of us know, when people are drowned in darkness, they long for the light. In fact, people in Jesus’ day so valued light that they had special celebrations centering around light.
As a part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews celebrated a ceremony called “The Illumination of the Temple.” It took place in the court of the women. The court was very dark, surrounded by deep galleries; in the center stood four great candelabras. When darkness descended, each of the candelabras was lit, which in turn lit up the courtyard. During the night, the priest and the people danced and sang songs of joy for the light in the midst of darkness. It is with this understanding that John introduces us to Jesus, and it is in this context that Jesus later says, “I am the light of the world.” In essence, John’s message says to us, “The earthly light can only brighten up a single room, or a courtyard, but Jesus brings light to the whole world.” And that is what we celebrate on Easter morning, the light of the world dawning in our midst.