“You are the light of the world. So let your light shine…” – Matthew 5:14-15 (NRSV, adapted)
Years ago I knew an old woman who never took down her Christmas tree or unplugged its lights. They stayed on, twinkling in her picture window, day and night, year after year. I thought she was weird.
I’m old myself now. Now I don’t think she was weird. She was being prudent, realistic, even brave. Because you can go through life thinking you have all the light you need, imagining that the seasons will always be bright, that night will never overwhelm the day. You can believe in positivity, or that faith will keep the monsters under your bed at bay.
But the truth is there’s no season so bright it can’t be gradually or suddenly shadowed—a diagnosis wipes out a future, a tornado wipes out a town, a bullet wipes out our confidence in justice. Fierce things go bump in the night. They aim to suck the life out of us by fear.
We’ll succumb to them if there’s no nightlight on somewhere in the house, if someone is careless and turns off the last light. My old acquaintance wasn’t going to be responsible for that. In her house, the lights stayed on.
I think of Jesus this way, bright and constant in the world’s window, a nightlight left on in the places that’re scariest for us, shining so we won’t be afraid. He knows the shadows and what’s lurking there. He won’t take us there without light.
As we learn to trust him, something strong and bright will begin to shine in us too, a light as old and as new as creation. For the world’s gloom, he’s making us courage and grace. For its fearful night, we can be a dawn.
By your light, show us our own, O Christ. Keep us constant in shining, light for all in the house.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.