“For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
One of my favorite childhood memories with my father is being five and six-years-old, staying up late on Saturday nights to watch “Shock Theater.” Just the two of us.
A Richmond television station would broadcast the classic horror films: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man and all the rest. Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Bela Lugosi became as familiar to me as Mickey Mantle.
And, gosh, those actors were really scary in those movies.
But was I afraid?
No, because I felt so safe sitting close to my father on the sofa in front of the television, darkness all around, the only light coming from the screen of the black and white television as midnight approached. I knew nothing bad could happen to me as long as he was there.
Most of the scary scenes in those movies were set in darkness. Dracula came at night to drink his victims’ blood. Chaney’s character was transformed by the full moon into the ravening Wolf Man. When darkness came, in those films, evil was not far behind.
The trick, of course, was getting up enough courage to go to bed after the movie was over and I had told my father good night. I would hold my little stuffed dog Petesy tightly in my arms and say my prayers as hard as I could.
I never fell asleep right away, however, on those Saturday nights.
Even though I knew they were just movies, my imagination sometimes ran away with me in the darkness as I lay in bed. One night I woke up and really needed to pee, but I was certain that the Wolf Man was actually in our house, right down the hall in the living room.
I was terrified, so frightened that I even tried holding my breath, certain that if the Wolf Man heard me breathing he would know I was there and come get me. I lay still as a stone until morning came when I saw Mom and Dad again and, in the light of day, realized that the Wolf Man wasn’t real as, yes, I dashed into the bathroom.
Darkness and light are powerful symbols. The Bible is full of such references, beginning with the moment God declared “Let there be light” in the third verse of Genesis and the journey of light began. But we shouldn’t let that sentence belong entirely to God. Nor do I believe that God wants sole title and legal claim to those words.
The Bible, after all, is full of suggestions that we should also be saying “Let there be light” as often as possible, and then, crucially, doing what we can to help that light shine in this world for all who are living in darkness.
Jesus, unsurprisingly, took the light farther, and further, than anyone. He took the light places nobody had ever dreamed of before. He brought the light to you and he brought it to me. Directly. But that wasn’t the end of the journey. Instead, it was just the beginning because Jesus then took the light even one more amazing step—a giant leap for humankind, if we’re willing to take that leaping step.
Because Jesus told us—is still telling us—that we are the light of world and that we are meant to shine. What a miracle waiting inside all of us, and one so desperately needed.
Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man and the Mummy aren’t real, but the world is full of “monsters” that make people feel as if they are surrounded by a frightening darkness that would devour them if it could. And, sometimes it can. And does.
Violence, oppression, bigotry, hatred, poverty … There are so many “monsters” and they can have so many names. Many are so large that we may feel powerless to stop them. But there is one monster we can halt before it takes a single step.
We do that by making certain no “monster” ever has our name.
Daylight Savings Time returns this weekend. Our clocks “spring ahead.” Let there be light, then. Moreover, let’s truly save the light. Not the light in the sky, but the light that Jesus knows is inside us. The light that empowers us to be agents of love, healing, peace and reconciliation in the world.
So, let’s make certain to “spring ahead” with our hearts, as well.
And every day, not once a year.