Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

John 1:5:

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

Sorry for one of my "crappy cell phone pictures" but if you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see why I whipped out the cell phone and shot the picture "before it was too late." The streams of light over my barn were amazing! I have been joking I should call this photo, "The Transfiguration of the Barn."

All joking aside, back to that light. This verse is part of the text from this past Sunday, the first Sunday after Christmas. Every three years in the Revised Common Lectionary, after having been through the classic rendition of the Nativity in Luke, we go from the most concrete rendition of the birth of the incarnate Christ on Christmas to the most theologically powerful, but visually obscure rendition of the Incarnation in John 1 the following Sunday. Can you say, "Left brain, right brain?"

But in that reading (John 1:1-18), it is consistently verse 5 that jumps out at me in one way or another and becomes an earworm..."The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it." You can feel both Isaiah 9:2 and Isaiah 60:1-2 dripping from the pores of John 1.

The Greek word used for "overcome" in this passage is the word "katalambano," which can be used to mean to physically lay hold upon, mentally lay hold upon, grasp, catch, to take possession. The KJV version of this passage says the dark could not "comprehend" (mentally lay hold upon) the light.

The physical world, time and time again, shows us that interplay of the dark and the light. We slip into the darkest and longest nights of the year in the winter of the Northern Hemisphere. Each night, the sun sinks beneath the horizon. Clouds roll by and partially obscure the sun. In a solar eclipse, the shadow of the moon blots out the sun.

But in each of these, light always wins. The moon's shadow abates. Clouds continue to move and the sun comes back out. Winter gives way to summer, and each morning, the sun rises again--sometimes with spectacular fanfare, as in my picture taken shortly after dawn.

Light always wins, given enough time.

In those scenarios, when you get right down to it, the light never really went away. In our darkest night of winter, it's the longest day of summer in New Zealand. Our night is noon in India. Obscuring clouds and lunar shadows are only obscuring because we're standing on the other side of the clouds, or the eclipse. The sun never physically stopped shining.

So in that sense, the thick darkness and deep gloom we might feel in our present moment is neither to someone else in the same moment. It's all about perspective. Our most profound grief, our deepest fears, our most intensely acute pain, is merely an opaque barrier that can only stand if we continue to choose to stand on the opposite side of the barrier from the sun. We speak so often about someone "losing their faith." it was never really "lost;" it was only obscured. In all those things, we forget these obscuring cloaks are only temporary.

I think sometimes about the nature of the times we have felt separated from God, or doubt His existence, or feel the black cloak of depression resting on our shoulders, or feel separated from those we love by the chasm of death. Over time, this separation can become a self-separation, where we keep hauling around this opaque screen in front of us all the time, and never know it, because our eyes have become accustomed to the dark. We somehow forget that it is the nature of all living things, even the simplest and most primitive organisms, to turn towards the light. So there we sit, claiming to be "alone in the dark", when in reality we are simply failing to respond to our instinctual desires to turn to the light.

But the light is always there--the light that cannot be overcome. We only need the faith of a sunflower to make it ours.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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