Light Up the World

candle LIGHT OF THE WORLDHalford 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 a while, 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.”

We live in a very dark world right now. It is a world where right is wrong and wrong is right, and things are upside down. It is a dark world where common sense is as much a thing of the past as is morality. It is a dark world where the love of others has cooled considerably. It is a world where there is so much information out there, but so very who few speak truth and even if one can find a bit of truth, it is so hard to distinguish fact from fiction. It is a dark world where violence seems to be the norm. It is a world where a child is murdered by a gun every other day in the United States. Even Pope Francis has weighed in. The Pope told churchgoers during mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria recently that Christmas this year is going to be a “charade” because “the whole world is at war.” His speech came after a rash of notable violent incidents, including the now infamous terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino and said, “We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war.”

It is no wonder that in such a dark world, people are fearful, terrified, and afraid. Like Halford Luccock’s granddaughters, we, too, want a lighted world.

I vividly recall attending a patriotic show at the old Baltimore Stadium during World War Two. These were the dark days of that war when it was far from certain that the Allied forces would be victorious over the Axis forces. Near the end of the show that evening, the public address announcer spoke to the assembled crowd. He said: “You were given a candle when you came into this stadium. Now is the time to light those candles.” The lights in the stadium were extinguished and then slowly there was a flicker of light here, then another over there, until finally, the entire stadium was aglow with the light from those individual candles. The message was clear: In the darkness that we were experiencing, one light would not bring illumination, but brightness would be accomplished if we all put our lights together.

I see “light” as a metaphor of what we can do with our lives. We are not the source of the light. But light – be it truth or understanding or knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if we shine it. We are a fragment of a light whose whole design and shape we do not know. Nevertheless, with what we have, we can shine light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places of human hearts – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what we are about. To shine the light into a darkened world is what gives meaning to our lives.

Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth, whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow once said: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. . .”

Children, of course, know what know that such sentiments are true and have echoed this understanding every time they sing an old gospel song:

            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.

 

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