–December of 2004
The Light Still Shines
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness could not extinguish it.” (John 1:5)
In a great piece of music, the composer often begins by stating the themes which he is going to elaborate in the course of the work. That is what John does in the opening of his gospel. Light is one of the great words upon which John builds his testimony of Jesus. John describes Jesus as a light that has come into the world to light the life of every man. Another one of John’s key words is darkness. John saw a darkness in the world that was very real and very hostile to the light. This darkness represents evil. Sinning man loves the darkness and hates the light, because the light exposes their wickedness. John takes these two themes and shows their natural opposition. He portrays a universal battleground where the forces of dark and light are arrayed in an eternal conflict. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. The darkness seeks to eliminate the light of Christ—to banish it from life, but the light will not go out!
This conflict is played out in the pages of sacred history. The Old Testament lets us witness everything from individual struggles with evil to heavenly warfare for the soul of a Nation. In the New Testament this conflict emerges with intensity around the cradle of the incarnate Christ as the forces of darkness unleash Herod’s sword in a futile attempt to eliminate the light. The ultimate battle, however, was staged on the Cross of Christ. The rulers of this age and the powers of darkness thought if they could only nail Christ to the cross that darkness would win once and for all. They thought the crucifixion of Christ would be the ultimate defeat and their final triumph. In fact, it proved to be just the reverse. Out of the darkness of his death came the blinding light of His resurrection victory. The light of this good news exploded out of the confines of Palestine and across the known world like a quickly spreading flame until, in a few decades, the gospel had impacted every major population center of the Roman world.
The powers of darkness responded with persecution and torture. But wild beasts and boiling oil couldn’t put out the light and the blood of the martyrs only fueled the flame. When persecution from without did not succeed, the forces of darkness turned inward and awful darkness settled down over the church. But out of the heart of that darkness, reformation fires began to burn and the light prevailed. Every counter move by the forces of darkness to extinguish the light only brought revival fires that would break out and save lives, transform nations, and change the course of history.
The darkness has used all sorts of political ideologies, human philosophies, and false religions to advance its cause. But the light always breaks through to enlighten the mind and hearts of men. Alumnus Rick Hutchison told recently of standing in the front yard of Nikita Khrushchev’s summer home and holding Easter morning services. As the sound of Christian hymns lifted toward heaven, Rick couldn’t help but think of the irony of the situation. He was preaching the gospel in the front yard of the atheist dictator who declared he would bury Christian America without a shot. Another alumnus, Rodney Jackson, e-mailed me the story of how he was able to give a Bible to an Iraqi woman while he was serving in Iraq. He watched the tears of joy run down her cheeks as she expressed appreciation to her American liberators, but he knew that what he had given her would bring a greater liberation and drive the darkness and despair from her empty eyes.
As you gather with friends this Christmas season, light a candle and lift your voice in praise for light has come into the world and the darkness has not and will not overcome it!