Here ... hold this candle, would you?
"Then 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." ~Genesis 1:3
Our Christian faith community joins with many others in celebrating the Season of Epiphany this time of the year. Epiphany has roots in the word for "sunrise" or "dawn."
Epiphany comes immediately after Christmas, where at Christmas we light the "Christ Candle" in celebrating the birth of the Christ-child. Bringing the two together, then, Epiphany and its theme of "illumination" leads to Jesus Christ as the Light of the World.
This light or illumination is a stark contrast to the chaos that has elbowed its way into our lives over the past few weeks and last several months. The Bible takes up that subject, too, where chaos is symbolized by darkness.
Thinking of "chaos" as an umbrella term, other ideas would fit under that umbrella, too, things like anxiety, fear, terror, distress, panic … we could fill the rest of this page adding words to this list, as chaos stretches out wide and extends far ahead.
Whereas the Bible opens with a compact and very straightforward claim: "In the beginning God." And the very first thing we learn about God is that God acts: "In the beginning when God created."
As we're introduced to God, we learn that all that exists depends upon God. With God creating everything we know out of nothing, and that when there is nothing left for us to turn to in the chaos, God even brings order to that as well.
Religious studies professor Joseph L Price adds: "The deep darkness in which and over which God worked in creation provides a dramatic contrast for the initial creative act of God: illumination. Called forth by God's command, light bursts into being and enables the possible perception of all other elements of creation. Light is the first step for order to be established and discerned. Light is the basis for life and order and judged by God to be good shows its moral quality."
That's a hope and an order to life that can feel so far beyond us, how can we "hold a candle to it?"
That expression dates back to the 1600s when the apprentice to a master might only be fit to hold a candle to provide light for the master to work by. Yet here is where our hope is found.
Light is measured in lumens and the average candlelight is about 13 lumens, almost 100 times lower than an incandescent light bulb. Even the light cast by our Christ candle wouldn't seem like much against the lights in our own building's ceiling fans and chandeliers and spotlights around the pulpit and fluorescent tubes along the walls.
But as we turn those lights off one switch at a time, in the growing darkness, this Christ-candlelight becomes much more visible. Whether the lights are on or off, the Christ-candle is still 13 lumens; but the darker things get the more attention this candlelight commands.
In the dark chaos of these days, even a little bit of Christ's light – the brightness of God's goodness for us and all – is going to be really easy to see.
By the light of the Christ-candle we look for signs of God's creative work beyond our capacities. With God still creating order out of chaos – just as day follows night – God will create order in the lives of God's people.
It leaves us with a lovely and comforting image as God says: "Here, hold this candle, would you? I've still got more work to do."
Mike Wilson is the pastor at Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.
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