by Sharan Bennett  |  20 December 2017  |  

Christmas, 2017 enters a chaotic and gloomy world that seems unprepared to receive it. But has our world every been much different? Ellen White says of the first Christmas: “The earth was dark through misapprehension of God.” (The Desire of Ages, p.22) And “While the light of truth seemed to have departed from among men, there were souls who were looking for light, and who were filled with perplexity and sorrow” (DA p.32).

Into just this kind of world, our Savior came, bringing light! John writes of the Word: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4,5 RSV) As His followers, we bask in that Light. We celebrate this memorial season with a joy that cannot be defeated.  Will we do so selfishly, or in emulation of One who declares, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life!” (John 8:12)

In Bible times, even a tiny oil lamp could “give light to all the house” (Matthew 5:15), if standing in its place.  Home life revolved around a timid, almost worthless flame that we would consider a fire hazard. 

But sometimes, even the smallest light is important.

Thereby hangs a story.

Years ago, when our family lived in Southeastern Arizona, we found out just how essential even a tiny light can be, when everything else is an impenetrable gloom.

It was almost 11. We were driving along a desert road when the car lights flickered out. Ten miles behind in Globe, rain had begun, but that had diminished.  The problem now was simply the darkness. Ahead stretched 75 miles of desert, unbroken except for the tiny commercial area in Bylas, a settlement at the middle of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. Everything would probably be closed at this hour. Should we go on?

The alternator had warned us of trouble all the way from Phoenix, but we’d kept on. To repair our problem, we had to get home. We limped along through the mountains, gassed up in Globe, and crawled to this point at the edge of a void. A mistake, no longer abstract. How can we go on?

Then we noticed the reflectors: those tiny circles of metal atop rods lining the highway. They responded to a flashlight beam with a faint answering glow. We’d hardly glanced at them before; in comparison with the powerful beams of our headlights, they were nothing.  

At the moment, they were all we had.

So we crept along, another mile. Hardly any traffic, still OK. Has the flashlight dimmed? No. A murmur of prayer to break the silence. Another five miles—keep going? Not much choice now; we’re halfway across the silent emptiness.

The tiny reflectors, each in its spot, continued to give brief flashes of encouragement.  As we lost sight of one, another one popped into view.  

A few more miles. . . Are those the lights of Safford?

And home, home! By the light of the wavering flashlight and the little reflectors, we were home at last.

Drought and flood, hurricane and fire remind us that the earth is “growing old like a garment”.  But Christmas will come. And eventually—perhaps sooner than we expect—we will welcome our Lord Jesus as He returns to this earth! The hope that Handel set to music becomes reality:

“The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord!  And He shall reign forever and ever.
Hallelujah!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!”

Behind the clouds of gloom awaits the true Light!

What are we going to do with that saving, cheering knowledge? Do we hoard to ourselves the very things most needed in a dystopian world?  Shall we not share what we have been given?  “Every true disciple is born into the Kingdom of God as a missionary. . .The receiver becomes a giver” (DA p.195).

We can’t, of ourselves, produce true light. However, we can reflect that blest light, in our spot here, by the side of the road toward home. We can mark the road. We’ll flicker at times, yes; we’ll will feel our inadequacy. At such times we need to remember that we are invited, we are empowered, to “let our light shine”. (Matthew 5:16)

Some bright day, we’ll need no more “light of lamp nor sun, for the Lord God will be (our) light!” (Revelation 22:5)

Until then, let us be confident that someone homeward-bound in the dark, may arrive because we were there in our place, exactly where we were meant to be, reflecting Him, “the True Light that enlightens everyone.”  John 1:12

Merry Christmas, world!  

Sharan Bennett, a lifelong member of the Adventist church, has been a public assistance worker, housewife, stay at home mother, teacher at high school and university level, and leader in an Elderhostel program. In Puerto Rico she taught Bible, ESL, and World History; in China, ESL, creative writing and a class for medical professionals about the Adventist microculture. Her law degree led to active practice for 5 years; she was recognized as among 50 top pro bono lawyers in Arizona.

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