Lights, lights, lights. ‘Tis the season: Christmas lights on trees, wreaths, houses, and stores. This, of course, triggered my thinking: What is light? Literally. Figuratively.
What is darkness? Well, except for the obvious contrast, maybe the latter will have to be explored at another time!
Light? Immediately, I connected the light theme with Scripture. Jesus claimed, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Hmm. I’ve always found this phrase, “light of life”, to be a curious expression. John 1:4 says, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men”. Life’s light; Light’s life.
I need to explore. But I can only do so if I slow down in my cluttered busyness to “be still” and learn to “know” something of what is available to be known. Research creates another kind of clutter. Out come stacks of books, spread all over our dining room table! Oh, no! Not much time! Must clean this up by tomorrow! So, here is what happened:
I began by exploring dictionaries (English, Greek, and Hebrew origins and definitions), Bibles, and scientific literature. Too much for one post (as always). No time to cook, simmer, and thicken, so I’ll just have to spread out some findings and then some insights.
- My good old, American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster’s original 1828 version, lists 26 definitions for light as a noun and 25 definitions for light as a verb. Of course, it can be used as an adjective and adverb. Noah included lots of Scripture in his dictionary, which he spent some twenty years compiling; however, later editions deleted much of the Scripture. Sigh.
- My good old, well-worn Oxford Universal dictionary lists four columns of small print definitions, history, and explanations. Lovely.
- My Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible provides four columns of small print lists of Bible references to light.
- From Bible dictionaries, I see about a dozen Hebrew words translated light of various kinds, and from Greek roots we get our words, phosphorous, lamp, epiphany, and luminous.
- Online, you can blow your brain with sites that explore scientific explanations of light. (Below, I offer a few “cliff notes” type of resources to help us get to the bottom line.)
While my mind was spinning with heated thought (enlightened?), I sat down at my piano and turned to some beautiful Christmas music. Playing the piano is one of my “therapies”; it lets my mind settle. Ah. There it is again. All over the place! Light referenced in so many poems set to music. Of course! It is the Christmas season that piqued my curiosity about light!
“While shepherds kept their watching o’re silent flocks by night, behold, through-out the heavens there shone a holy light.” (“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”)
“O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.” (“We Three Kings”)
“Shepherds in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night, God with us is now residing; yonder shines the infant light. Come and worship Christ, the newborn King.” (“Angels from the Realms of Glory”)
“O see in the manger, in hallowed light a star throws its beam on this holiest sight.” (“O come, Little Children”)
Scripture claims, “The light shines in the darkness…” (John 1:5). Christmas songs proclaim this.
“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining; it is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.” Verse two says, “Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, with glowing hearts by His cradle we stand….”
“O holy night!” Are both the light and the night (dark) holy? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. (Another topic.)
Light. As literal phenomena — “Let there be light” (Genesis 1: 3) — created by God — light is energy. Electromagnetic waves.
If you have time, check out these sites, which make complex ideas somewhat graspable for us:
1). Short and basic.
2). This is longer, more detailed, and not from a creationist perspective, but its science is science. You may want to just listen to the few minutes. Whatever….
3) This is a devotional from Days of Praise by the Institute of Creation Research. I ran across this recently, and well, it says pretty much what I would like to communicate. Selah!
When I think of Jesus as “the light of the world”, when I think of God as “Light”, when I think of the Holy Spirit as “fire”, I grasp what I know, a growing knowledge, of the Creator’s revelation through nature as discovered by science, and apply it to the metaphors of Scripture — and I’m flattened with awe.
Why was light God’s first act of creation? Was it because life requires energy? Was it because spiritual energy, God Himself, manifested Himself (and I don’t mean this pantheistically) through energy, through life-giving wave lengths?
“In Him was life and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Life births light? And Light/light births life?
“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). The more we know about the properties of light, the more we know of the attributes of God. Moreover, the more we may be able to experience God: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
“The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5 KJV); “…did not comprehend it” (NASB). “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV and ESV). Interestingly, the New Living Translation translates the second clause this way: “the darkness can never extinguish it.” Light nurtures life.
One of my favorite verses for over 40 years has been II Corinthians 4:6:
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (NIV).
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (NASB).
His light shines in our hearts. Here, we absorb this light and commune with the Light. Here, the indwelling Light creates in us a growing comprehension of God, his splendor. The invisible is made visible through Jesus — through His face. Divine energy energizing His image bearers. (This is why Moses’ face shone when he came down from the mountain.)
The science of light. Electromagnetic waves glorify their Creator by showcasing their own, energetic properties, exposing their Designer — Omnipotence and Wisdom on display. Don’t you think it’s purposeful? How cleaver of God.
More than cleaver. This gets personal: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Face to face light. In our hearts light. Not the phenomenon of light. The personality of Light.
My heart — lightly luminous,
From glory to glory,
I remember to breathe again.
Karen, thank you for this exquisite crafting of words to integrate scripture, hymnology, theology, and science regarding the mysterious complexity of light. How can I flip the next wall switch or activate my truck’s headlights without sone ongoing rumination over this commentary. That’s my simple world; until you posted this blog, I held little curiosity about the kinds of light (above website) outside of my daily life.
Until your next blog, Marty.