by Carrie Boren Headington
It is the dead of night in Africa with no electricity for a hundred-mile radius. The moon has waned. I lay in a tent surrounded by total darkness. Awakened by sounds of rustling outside, I wave my hand in front of my face testing my eye sight.
I can see nothing. It is pitch black.
The sounds of the moving creature creep closer and closer. My first thought is that it is probably a benign monkey that will go away. It becomes evident that the animal is larger and it is coming towards us. I quietly call out to my best friend who is on the pallet next to me: “Su.”
In a low whisper she says, “I know.”
I remain totally still listening to the sound of my breath, racing heartbeat, and the creature’s slow heavy walk and sniffing around our tent. The thing stops, releases a guttural low groan, and literally licks its chops. I slowly crawl on the floor to get the candle on the wooden table, as I know that light or fire is supposed to scare away such beings.
I grab my friend’s hand and we squeeze tightly. I whisper, “Candle.” She says, “Yes.” I find the candle but no matches. My fingers comb the dark tent for matches while the beast lingers outside. Finally, I find the matches. I light the candle, I can see my friend, and I take the light to the door opening. My friend mouths to me in terror, “We might die.” The creature sees the flame, snorts, and moves. Soon, the animal slowly leaves.
I will never forget that moment when the light pierced the darkness. That light saved our lives. That light drove away the creature that sought to devour us. My friend and I embraced and began to weep by candlelight. We were safe. To this day, we do not know what kind of being it was.
The Gospel of John commences with a great heralding that light has come to the dark world:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
During this time of year when lights adorn many towns and cities, it is all too easy to think of Christmas as pretty, quaint, picturesque, perhaps even beautiful and magical. However, the Light that came to earth and will come again is nothing short of life saving.
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Holy Scripture says that, “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Evil is real. The reality is that we all face predators circling around us in the darkness. Jesus, God in human flesh, said clearly that in this life every single human being will face all sorts of trials and temptations.
Yes, there is joy and yet this joy is deeply mingled with sorrow. Just the mere thought of some of the things I have experienced and witnessed in this past year alone can bring me to gut-wrenching tears: a car wreck leaving a man paralyzed from the neck down, hopeless expressions of incarcerated youth at a jail filled with only people of color behind bars, people going hungry in Cuba, family dissention leading to debilitating bitterness, racism, betrayal, abandonment, suicide, PTSD, hurricane victims losing everything, addiction, depression, homelessness, rape, grief, loneliness… to name just a few.
Every time I hit this darkness, I am keenly aware that the ONLY ONLY ONLY HOPE in life is JESUS, THE LIGHT of the world!
Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles (and persecution), but take heart I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
The reality of Christmas is that the Light of the World has come into our darkness and conquered it.
God humbled Himself, came into our darkness, and took on human flesh in the person of Jesus. All of the fullness of God dwells in Him. Jesus, The Light of the World, is the visible face of the invisble God. Jesus walked among us, teaching us how to live, showing us how to love, and took on all of our sins suffering the most brutal death on the cross, rising again, defeating death and darkness, so we could be reconciled with God forever.
The message of Christmas is that whatever devouring creature seeks to destroy us in the darkness of our lives, the Light has come and expelled it. The Light of the World, Jesus, has overcome ALL darkness.
When our inner darkness says we are worthless, never measure up, and are filthy… The light of Jesus reveals that we are children of God, forever loved by Him unconditionally. We are God’s beloved.
When our social darkness says we have been wronged and have wronged others, the light of Jesus reveals that we are forgiven by His blood and can forgive others and be reconcilers and people of peace in the world.
When our physical darkness says we are facing disease, decay, and death…The light of Jesus says we can experience God’s power and strength in our weaknesses in this life and that we will all be healed fully and reach eternal life. Death has no hold on us. Eternal life is real and begins now.
When our spiritual darkness says we must hide our wrongs and that we are not worthy of God’s love…The Light of Jesus reveals that God is always waiting and ready to forgive us totally and completely no matter what. God wants to set us free. God wants to be in constant relationship with us.
The Light of the World has come.
This Christmas and New Year, may we let the Light of life, Jesus, guide us, encourage us in the darkness, and remind us, moment by moment, that all darkness has ultimately been defeated. Jesus Christ has come. Jesus Christ will come again!
Carrie Boren Headington (@CBHeadington) is an evangelist and apologist who communicates the good news of Jesus locally, nationally, and internationally. Carrie founded the Good News Initiative helping people meet God, know God, and share God. She is adjunct professor in evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelist in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, the wider Episcopal/ Anglican Church, and an occasional guest on Daystar Christian Television.