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The Light in Darkness

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Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things,
though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
I think it right, as long as I am in this body,
to arouse you by way of reminder,
since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon,
as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
And I will see to it that after my departure
you may be able at any time to recall these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you the power and coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For when he received honor and glory from God the Father
and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
we heard this voice borne from heaven,
for we were with him on the holy mountain.
And we have the prophetic word made more sure.
You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
First of all you must understand this,
that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man,
but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:12–21, RSV)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

When did you realize it was dark out? Was it playing in the street or the yard and the ball was tossed into the air and for just a moment you could no longer see that it was coming your way, and so you put your hands up to protect yourself until you heard a thud, or until you felt that pain in your arm? Would you talk and joke with your friend, and when you looked at the their face you couldn’t see if they were smiling when they made that last sarcastic comment, so you weren’t quite sure if they were trying to hurt you or not? Was it dark out when the streetlights came on, was that the sign it wasn’t safe to be there anymore? How long were you out there, without a worry, as long as there was still that twinge of light in the sky, “I’m okay, it’s still light out.”

How do we know when we’re in the darkness? Do we find ourselves in darkness when we are hurt by people of faith, or when the world outside attacks us and mocks for clinging to our belief and we just know that we are alone and isolated from everyone around us? Do we feel the darkness closing in when we hear the news of a suicide bombing killing 43 people in Beirut or terror inside the Bataclan Theatre? Do we feel the darkness closing in when our hearts ache at the daily reports of the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters around the globe, or does it grab a hold of us when we lose a best friend at the young age of nineteen and we become so lost in the darkness that it paralyzes us and we even weep in our sleep? Even for people of great faith, the darkness of the world can wrap us up in an instant. And you’re lost. You cannot find your way out and real darkness stands ready to swallow you whole.

This is the reality of living in a fallen world. There are powers at work which will attack us suddenly, trying to permanently dim our view of everything. Or sometimes they will creep up slowly, just a feint or shadow behind us—some lingering doubt or worry or fear which we know that we can keep at bay, until we no longer can.

We hear these words, words of God written by a man in whom the Holy Spirit moved, words written with all the authority of the one on whom Christ would build his Church, and we know that this concern was real. We know that dark times were coming for people of faith in the earliest days of the Church, just as they are in our time and just as they have for people of God in every time and place. And just before this part of our world turns into its darkest days at the end of the year, we have already begun counting time anew, waiting for the Advent of our Lord. There is no special secret to making it through the darkness. Until the new day dawns, until the morning star rises, we focus our attention on the lamp which is burning in the darkness. When the world feels like it is growing dimmer and dimmer we sing “Rejoice, Rejoice believers, and let your lights appear.” When everything around us grows darker this only means that it becomes that much easier for our eyes to see the light; this is what happens when the darkest night comes near.

This letter of Peter, calling us to see the light, was written for the largest audience it could reach. And today it finds us in our place and our time where the darkness is lurking around every corner. And we seek to continue to do what this Word of God was meant to do. We hear again with so many faithful witnesses: “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder. . . . And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Pet 1:12–13, 15). Here in front of us we are being witnessed to again; the things on which our faith is built are being invoked so that when the darkness comes we will have a lamp, a flickering light of hope in Christ to sustain us. Just like when we dip our fingers in the font and make the sign of the Cross, the Scriptures here are reminding us of who we are and to whom we belong.

We are the Children of God, the Children of the light. We are the ones who have been baptized into new life in Christ Jesus, God’s only Son, the one who went up on the mountain with Peter and James and John, the one who in their sight was transfigured. We are baptized into the life of the One of whom God the Father has always said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 3:22). Today we hear again the word of the watchers on the mountain brought down to the whole community of baptized believers, something meant to remind them who they are as people of faith who are kept in the light of God no matter how dark it gets. We are hearing the word that proclaims to us that, in the midst of darkness, Christ our Bridegroom is near. And today we seek to do for each other what this word is meant to do for us. We speak the word which reminds us that we belong to Christ. There are lamps that shine in the darkness, lights that shine before others so that in the face of all that hurts, in the end it is our Father in heaven who will be glorified. We look into the darkness and we remind each other of our baptism into eternal life with Christ. Today we look into darkness and we know that we belong to the one who is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. And it does us good to be reminded of these things of Christ “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19). In times of darkness we will always long for the advent of our Lord, the coming again of the risen Christ. In the darkness of the world we find the smallest light, believing in faith that we too shall be eye witnesses of the majestic transfigured brilliance of Jesus Christ, our morning star, guiding us to him, shining with God’s own truth and light, who will gather us up out of the darkness and embrace us in his eternal grace and mercy. Amen.

Editors’ Note: This text was delivered as a homily on December 2, 2014, Tuesday of the First Week of Advent. 

Featured Photo: Gillie Rhodes; CC-BY-ND-2.0.

Hans Tolpingrud

Hans Tolpingrud is a former U.S. Army Infantry officer and a veteran of Afghanistan. He is a graduate of the North American Lutheran Seminary at Trinity School for Ministry (M.Div. ’16) and Valparaiso University (B.A. ’06). He is currently serving as Vicar at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Yorktown, Texas and is a candidate for ordination in the North American Lutheran Church.