He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.
In the prologue of his gospel John announces, with regards to Christmas, that “the true light that gives light to every person” has come into the world (Jn. 1:9). It is a light that brings us hope and the promise that darkness will soon be dispelled from our lives. We are to watch, pray and wait as we witness the effects of this light in us, and in our history. And we are to serve its increase in the world.
But as time unfolds, we come to realize that this Divine Light has properties that are quite different from those we would normally assume. We learn that its increase is more incremental, and not as immediate as we might expect light to be.
When a light switch is turned on in a dark room the light bulb immediately dispels the darkness, illuminating even the corners. But the light of Christ is different. Like yeast in the dough, it works itself slowly through all creation. As the book of Proverbs notes, it is like “the first gleam of dawn, that shines ever brighter till the full light of day” (Prov. 4:18). If we are awake and paying attention in the early morning, we might notice how the world around us gently, almost imperceptibly, changes from dark shapes to gradually-brightening colours. Trees that looked black take on hues of green and brown. The gleam of Christ will eventually fill and ‘colour’ all things. But before it does, the darkness must first be exposed. Its “deep shadows” must be fully brought to light. And this, it would seem, is what takes time.
If you have ever worked with long exposure photography you know something of the beautiful effects one can get from the slow accumulation of light. In “old school” photography, where negative film is used, the amount of light that comes into a camera is determined by the length of time the shutter stays open. For night photography, where your subject might be a star or a dimly lit building, you have to keep the shutter open so the light will gather onto the negative. The longer the shutter remains open, the more light comes into the camera. If it were left open, the light would eventually fill the whole negative and completely expose the dark parts of the film. So it is with the light of Christ in our lives. As we remain open, His light reaches our darkest shadows.
There is another aspect of this analogy that also applies to our spiritual life. In order for a camera to capture a true image in a dark setting a tripod is necessary to keep it still. If there is movement in the camera, the image produced by the light will be blurred. For us too, the stillness we bring to our prayer allows Christ’s light to form its image more precisely in us. It ensures that our sense of God is not blurred by lesser lights.
The general rule for photography then is that the darker it is outside, the longer the shutter needs to remain open, and the more still the camera needs to be in relationship to the light that is accumulating. It would seem that something very similar is taking place in us as well.
Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
For Group Discussion:
- Spend some time in stillness inviting God to show you places of darkness or light.
- How have you experienced the gentle gleam of Christ in your life?
- How does this light bring hope and promise?
For Prayer: Illumine my heart, Jesus, and dispel the darkness I sometimes ignore or even choose. Give me patience for your slow unfolding work in me.