Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”
This line from 1 John, which we read this week, describes the physical world in these late December days. It also sets out a spiritual challenge for us in the coming year.
Physically, the darkness of the night is growing shorter and the light of the day is already growing longer. Spiritually, having just celebrated Christmas and looking ahead to the New Year, God’s Word calls us to let the light of Christ grow and cast out any darkness inside of us, and then to shine through us into the darkness of the world.
This is interesting, though: Although the light is already growing, the coldest days of winter are still ahead of us. The dark days behind us have stockpiled a coldness that has a delayed effect. Correspondingly, while the light is already growing, the warmth that comes from it will be delayed as well. The results are sure; but they aren’t immediate.
Let’s turn to our spiritual condition: Each of us is an interplay of the light of Christ and the darkness of sin. How do we let the light of Christ grow in us?
We are — especially as the new year dawns — inclined to set an agenda, to make a list of things we should work on. There’s something very good about that; there’s also something entirely wrong-headed about it! When we set out to do the work ourselves, we bring the same broken tools, use the same broken methods, and produce the same broken results. What would it mean, instead, to let Jesus do the work? He is, after all, the Savior — not just a good example. That means He does the work precisely where we can’t. The only catch is: we have to let Him do the work.
Here’s a way to think about it. When Solomon built and dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory came to dwell in it in a spectacular and overwhelming fashion. (See 1 Kings 8.) That temple was destroyed in the Exile. When it was rebuilt, God’s glory did not come down upon it. This left the Jewish people waiting for the return of God’s glory. This hope was fulfilled when Jesus was presented in the Temple as a baby. God’s glory did re-enter the Temple, but in a new and surprising way — in a way that was, to human eyes, small.
He comes to the temple of our hearts in small ways, too. Don’t underestimate the small! Read one chapter of Scripture a day — let the Word form your words. Take five minutes a day to talk to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and listen to Them — let that relationship be the theme of your day. When we do small things like this, we let God do the work in us. We let His light grow in us, and our darkness passes away.
The physical light is growing these days — gradually, imperceptibly, but nevertheless surely. And just as surely, the physical warmth of spring will follow.
Taking our cue from nature, we could make that our spiritual resolution for the New Year: to let the light of Christ grow in us, even if it’s in small ways that are, at first, imperceptible to the outside world. If we do so, then, just as surely, the spiritual warmth will follow, both in us and through us.