"In the beginning ... darkness was upon the face of the deep ... and God said, `Let there be light.' There was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night."
Apparently from the very beginning of time, people have distinguished light and darkness, day and night, one being feared and one being welcomed. Light and darkness are used by John in his epistles as symbols of knowledge (light) and ignorance (darkness), and down through history light and darkness have symbolized good vs. evil, peaceful times vs. war times, bad times vs. good times.
As a child, I was fearful of the dark, where friendly objects were transformed into foreboding monsters. Darkness fed my imagination so at night many sounds and sights were something to be feared.
One of my 4-year-old grandsons developed a fear of the dark after Halloween this year. His parents wisely solved the problem by giving him his own flashlight to shine into the dark so he could see that the scary objects were just familiar objects in his home. Light reveals the truth. We see things as they really are. Darkness hides the truth. We can't always see things as they really are.
Let me hasten to add that there are times outside our home and neighborhood when we are well advised to avoid dark places. In the dark often lurk people who can do us harm. We are told by security experts to light up the areas around homes to ward off the possibility of a burglary.
If God is light, how can his kind of light be of help to us? God's light enables us to see ourselves as we really are, warts and all, i.e., the good and the bad, so we can affirm the good and work on the bad. God's unconditional light of love enables us to love ourselves and to get along with other people. God's light enables us to appreciate the world around us, its wonder, its beauty, its majesty and glory, and further helps us learn how to live as good stewards and fulfill our divine mission to have "dominion over" and to "till and keep" God's created order.
God's light also gives us enlightenment and inspires us to confront whatever problem we have to face, to develop skills to persevere and to endure and in many cases finally to overcome.
John said something quite profound in I John 5: "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all."
Wow! That means God sees through all of our confusing, bewildering, fog-shrouded days, times when we feel overwhelmed by life's circumstances and do not know what to do.
It means God is unintimidated by this wall seemingly impenetrable wall that is staring us in the face. It means that with God all things are possible. It means, in the words of Andrew Young, "There is a way out of no way."
There are no dark nights of the soul that God's light cannot penetrate.
How can we receive God's light? The same way we get electricity out of the walls of our home: plug in. With God this means using the access word "help." Just as our access word on our computers at work opens up a vast world of information, so the access word to God opens up all the resources of God to save us when we pass through the "valleys of deep darkness." What a joyful message to start the Advent season.
Gene Norris is a Presbyterian minister.