A Light in the World
Lanterns wink and bob in the breeze along the streets, in parks and meeting places and in temples. It is the Lantern Festival, the final event of the Chinese New Year in Taipei, Taiwan. The Lantern Festival commemorates an old Chinese legend.
The story goes that a kindly villager rescued a small snake that he had found injured. Although China was in the grip of a deadly drought and food was scarce, the man cared for the snake and sustained it with his own scanty food supply. With this kindly care, the snake recovered and the man released it. Immediately, the drought miraculously ended. Now, this snake was really a god. He had been expelled to earth by the Heavenly Emperor for having misbehaved. The villagers lit their lanterns to find him. They wanted to thank him for ending their terrible drought.
It became a tradition that each year they light their lanterns so that they can search for the snake to give him their thanks.
Jesus, the Light of the World
Light is important to humankind around the world. It plays a vital part in Christianity. Candles are lit in churches to symbolise the presence of Christ in worship services; a candle is often presented to the newly-baptised to signify the handing on of the presence of Christ as a light in the person's life.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8.12) If we follow Him, putting our faith and trust in Him, have our sins forgiven through the gift of His sacrifice, and try to live in the way that would be pleasing to Him, we will have eternal life.
Let our Lights Shine
There are many passages in the Bible that mention the importance of light. St. Matthew quotes many of the sayings of Jesus in his record of the Sermon on the Mount. In one of these, Jesus instructed His followers to let their light shine before others so their good works can be seen and so God will be given the glory (Matt. 5.16). Jesus also told us that we are to be lights in the world. Are we? Or do we allow our lights to be hidden under a basket (Matt. 5.14) or under a haze of the rush of modern living?
- No Time: In these days of busy-ness, are we sometimes too busy, or even too selfish, to help others, to give a hand to neighbours in a time of need?
- A Gossip: A little 'harmless' gossip, a snide hint here and there; it can quickly escalate into a full-blown character assassination. St. Paul tells us that the tongue is our most unruly member. Remember, if I point my finger at a neighbour, there are three more pointing back at me!
When we are saved by faith, we may wonder how we can share God's light, His peace and life, in good works. Perhaps we feel that as part of the church, that is taken care of by the church's caring agencies that receive our Sunday offerings. Not so.
Long ago, God gave Isaiah a really important message that is still pertinent for Christians today: share your food and clothes; open your home to others; help your neighbours; remember your own relatives and family (Is. 58.7-10).
Our Small Corner
We may think that we are very small fry; that we are not important; that we do not have much to contribute in the world, but I often think of that song we learned in Sunday School: "Jesus Bids Us Shine." The verses end with "You in your small corner, and I in mine." We have a small corner and it is our choice whether we hide our light there or let it shine to give God the glory.
If we follow Jesus who lights our way to the Father, through Him we grow spiritually and our lights glow gradually more and more brightly. Our good deeds are not counted like Brownie points, but we do them as a thanksgiving to God for His Love and care. We witness in the way we live in our neighbourhood, sharing the Good News with our friends. If we live faithfully, following Jesus, the Light of the World, and allow our light to shine, no matter how small and insignificant it is, we glorify God.