LIGHTING THE CANDLE
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies…It is you who light my lamp; the LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.
Psalm 18:1-2, 28
During these days of Advent we experience the earth slowly tilting away from the sun so that the nights are longer and the days colder. This is when we like to light candles and throw a log on the fire. The lack of sunlight this time of year can be especially difficult for anyone experiencing SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called the “winter blues”. The most effective treatment? Light!
But most of us know a darkness coming from more than a tilting away from the sun. Who does not know the darkness of loneliness, shattered dreams, broken relationships, and fear of the future! Again, the most effective treatment for these types of darkness? Light!
In today’s scripture the psalmist David relates his experience of God’s light in darkness. In the psalm’s superscription, or introduction, David says he wrote these lines at a time the Lord delivered him from enemies. Over the years David has learned, when in trouble, to cry out to the Lord. David’s song arises from trusting the Lord and seeing the Lord deliver. David rejoices in God as “rock…fortress…deliverer…refuge…shield…horn of my salvation.” Whether facing down a Goliath or being hunted down by King Saul, David’s light and salvation are found in the Lord!
For a Hebrew like David, light represents life to the fullest. David can say to God: “It is you who light my lamp; the LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.” David was a man who had sinned greatly, and been greatly forgiven, but a gracious God “promised to give a lamp to David and to his descendants forever” (2 Kings 8:19). As the Lord was David’s lamp in times of darkness, so David became a lamp to others. Israel’s soldiers even called David “the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). In the book of Psalms the Lord says of David, “I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one” (Psalm 132:17). For all of David’s faults and failures, his lamp burns brightly to this day.
If you are in darkness, and burdened by life, take courage! The same God who was lamp and light to David will be your lamp and light.
Today, we look to that greater Son of David, Jesus, who is “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9). It is Jesus who gives His promise: “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).
Modern martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, awaiting execution in the Nazi Tegel Prison, wrote of God’s light in his darkness:
In me there is darkness,(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison)
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
Know that the same God who was light in David’s darkness, and in Bonhoeffer’s, is our light today!
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Loving Father, we thank you for people like David, like Bonhoeffer, and so many others, who witness to your light in dark places. As you shone in their darkness, so shine in ours, and make us a “lamp” to others. Amen.