Let There Be Light!

holmes22There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle. –Robert Alden, American author

Halford E. Luccock, one of the great preachers of his generation, who for some twenty-five years was Professor of Homiletics at the Yale Divinity School, made it as one of his primary goals to teach his students how to preach with wisdom and, if possible, with wit. He wrote that his goal was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” For the most part, Luccock was successful in both aspects of his objective. Luccock, always the great story-teller, relates the following account about himself.

It was December and Luccock invited his two granddaughters to spend the Christmas season at his home. As Christmas drew nearer, he asked them, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” And both young girls said, “We want the world!” He said, “You want the world?” They explained that they wanted the world on a stand, a world that spun around. It was with that clarification that Luccock understood that what they wanted was a globe.

So Luccock went shopping and found one, and put it away. On Christmas Day, he pulled his gift from its hiding place and gave it to the girls. They opened the package and looked at the globe for awhile, but then did not seem very happy at all about the present that they had received. They hardly played with it the rest of the day. That night, when Luccock put them to bed, he said, “I want you two to level with me. What’s wrong with the present that I gave you? You said you wanted the world and I gave you one.” They said, “Yes, Granddaddy, you gave us a world, but we wanted a lighted world and you gave us a dark world.”

So the next day Luccock went back to the store and stood for a long time to return the “dark world” that he had purchased for a lighted one that came with a little electric bulb. He was not successful at that store, so Luccock then went from one store to another trying to find a lighted globe. After visiting several stores, he finally found one and bought it for his granddaughters. He took it back to the girls and they were delighted.

Later, Luccock told one of his friends about that incident and the friend said, “Hal, what did you learn from all that?” Luccock thought for a moment and then with great wisdom said, “I learned one thing that I will never, ever forget. A lighted world costs more than a dark world.”

To reflect the light into a darkened world is what gives meaning to our lives as well.

To further illustrate this point, one need only turn to Steven Spielberg’s epic film, Schindler’s List, a moving account of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi profiteer who became an unlikely light in the midst of grave darkness. Working with his Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern, Schindler bluffed and bribed his way through the Nazi hierarchy to save as many Jews as possible. He had Stern produce a list of Jews whom he claimed were necessary for “war work” at his factory. It is believed that Schindler obtained well over one thousand Jewish forced laborers to perform this war work at his plant. At first, they were only making simple items such as mess kits. But then, they were transferred to another factory to make shells for the large guns. In the end, Schindler’s instructions to his workers were that he did not want any of the warheads in the shells to actually work. At first, Stern was suspicious but eventually saw Schindler for the benefactor that he really was. At one point in the film, Stern comes to Schindler and says: “This list is life.” Schindler fought to retain his employees, and on one occasion, barely saved a shipment of women who had been dispatched to a death camp by mistake. The stark black and white photography of the film shows the contrast between the darkness of the Nazis and the light that Schindler has chosen to follow and has become for the people on “the list.” We are challenged to be the same kind of light in the world to those on “the lists” of today.

Children, of course, know what Oskar Schindler knew to be true and have echoed this thought every time they sing the old gospel song This Little Light O’ Mine:

This little light o’ mine,

               I’m gonna’ let it shine,

               This little light o’ mine,

               I’m gonna’ let it shine,

               This little light o’ mine,

               I’m gonna’ let it shine,

               Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Light is the language of grace, of hope and of love. And when this language is uttered and translated into action, it becomes the most beautiful language ever spoken. It was Henry David Thoreau who once remarked: “Love must be as much a light, as it is a flame.”

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