Light (DOP #21 2015)

Today (Monday) happens to be the Winter Solstice, the day with the longest night of the year.   As I glance outside, it does seem pretty dark.  Would I know that this is the darkest day of the year if I hadn’t heard about it on the radio?  Probably not.  It seems dark all of the time now.  If I happen to be working in the warehouse during the day, I barely see any sun at all.  I arrive at work as the sun is rising and leave as it is setting.  My free time is in darkness.

It seems a little extra dark this year.

It seems like the forces at play in this world are doing everything they can to pull the world apart at the seams.   From wild political rhetoric to mass shootings around the globe, from refugee crisis to cancer claiming another life, it seems like all we see around us is darkness.  We long for simpler times, for the daylight of years past.  We are surrounded by trouble and do not know where to turn for answers.

Well, at least it seems dark to me.

When I was young, I read in a book that light has the properties of both a wave, and a particle.  For some reason that one sentence has stuck with from an entire book of sentences that I don’t remember.  How can it be both?  A sound is just a wave, and a grain of sand is a particle, but how can light be both?  For hundreds of years, physicists have debated back and forth about light being one thing and not the other.  For a while, most would agree that it was a particle, based on the experiments they could perform at the time, but eventually someone would get results that suggested that light was in fact a wave, and the opinion of science would shift towards light being a wave.  Eventually in the 1920s, the scientific world accepted that light must in fact have the properties of both.  Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work with light, and for beginning to understand the wave-particle duality it exhibited.    Light is something that is two things at once!

No one really fully understands it.

For whatever reason, and there are a lot of very good ones, light has always symbolized hope to humanity.  Perhaps it began when predators would hunt us in the night.  Perhaps we learned to prefer light to darkness as we left the womb and the world we thought we knew expanded beyond our wildest expectations.  Scary stories are told at night, when we can’t see what is around us.  Will you ever forget the first night you slept outside and prayed for the sun to come up, or ran back into your house terrified of the unexplained noises you heard?  When an artist portrays his or her interpretation of the afterlife, it is filled with light.   As humans, we generally associate light with hope, and darkness with despair.

It is no mistake that we celebrate Christmas at this time of year, and it is no mistake that light is such a prominent part of the celebration.  We put up lights on our houses,  on our trees, we burn candles together in community services.  We dream of a white Christmas, with bright snow covering the ground, and we sit in the red light of a fire, blissfully watching the flames crawl through the wood we have placed there.  We need light in such a dark time of the year.  We create it in any way that we can, and we celebrate it when we see it.

In the same way we seek hope at this time of the year.  We watch sappy movies about Christmas miracles, and we hope for just a taste of Christmas magic.  We throw parties and spend time with friends and family.  We celebrate the good that has come over the past year.  We pray for and actually hope for world peace,  In a way, we have to, because the darkness would drive us mad if we never found an escape from it.  We need some joy to make it through the darkest nights of the year.

We celebrate in this season something that is two things at once, particle and wave.

We also celebrate the birth of someone who was two things at once.

Jesus was born fully human, and yet he was also fully God.

No one really fully understands it.

Just like light can bring hope into the darkest of times, Jesus can bring hope to us in our hour of greatest need.  He is the great light shining in the darkness, and he was born as a baby placed in a manger.  He is the creator of all things, but choose to live as one who was created. He created life, but was obedient, even unto death.  Emmanuel, God with us.

Without the radio, would I know that this is the darkest night of the year?  I might know that this is the darkest night so far, but if I was that observant, perhaps I would also have noticed that each day is getting darker.  Perhaps I would have no hope as I only expected the days to become shorter and shorter until the light has disappeared altogether.

Would I know that tomorrow is going to be a little bit brighter?

I certainly would have no reason to expect that with the evidence all around me.  But it is true!  Tomorrow will be brighter!

We may not know the day when Jesus will restore light and peace to the land we live in, but we can know that one day he will.

It could even be tomorrow.