by John Kyle
Hello everyone and Merry Christmas!
Our fellows are now home with their families after finishing the first semester of Capital Fellows Season 12. This semester has been a full one: new friendships, new jobs, great conversations, new realizations, and important questions. On behalf of the 70+ people involved with leading the Capital Fellows program, I want to say thank you to the fellows for making an incredible effort, for digging in and working hard. We are very proud of you.
This Christmas season, I have been thinking about the idea of light. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not be in darkness but will have the light of life.” And these are the opening words of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” These are beautiful and stirring words that have been cherished by Christians for centuries. The words are so familiar that we might speed over them as we read. So, let’s pause for a moment and dig in.
What are these things, light and dark, and why does Jesus describe himself as light? There is a lot to be said about this imagery, more than we can say in a brief blog post. In summary, we can say that Jesus is describing his power and goodness. One theologian commented, “Without light there is no vision, no view of reality, no confident journeying, no growth save of chill and evil things, no health, no life.” I am reminded of something James Boice, the former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, once wrote, “Light is a universal image for the illumination of the mind through understanding.” Fellows, you know I love a statement like that!
When confronted by light, what power does darkness have? When we stop to think about it, we realize that darkness is nothing. It is nothing more than the absence of light. Light, on the other hand, is something. It is powerful energy that illuminates all that is around it. Because light is something and darkness is nothing, light always wins. Jesus is the one through whom all things were made (John 1:3) and the one that is making all things new (Revelation 21:5)… including us. He is powerful, like light over darkness, to fulfill his promises. Knowing that the Light is also Love (I John 4:8), we can go confidently to him with our deepest questions and fears. He is powerful to illuminate our minds and to bring hope where there is none. As we wonder whether or not he can actually do it, we are reminded that he, like light in the darkness, simply is power and darkness is nothing by comparison.
On Christmas Eve, like many churches, McLean Presbyterian has a candlelight service. We pass the candlelight from one person to another until light eventually fills the room. I love this beautiful imagery. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says something about our relationship to the light. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” When understood in the context of the rest of the Bible, this is not in conflict with what he says in John 8:12 (that he is the light). In fact, it reinforces what Jesus has taught us about himself. Jesus is THE Light, and he has made us to reflect him as image-bearers (Genesis 1:26). In Jesus’ perfect design, we are called to share the light of Christ in all we do – in our labors at work, in our relationships at home, in our active membership in the local church, and in our responsibilities to society. As imitators (Ephesians 5:1-2) and ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20) of Christ, we are called to be part of all God is doing in this world. Exploring these beautiful truths -- applying them to real life, working them out in authentic community -- is what the fellows experience is all about.
If you’re reading this and you’re not a fellow, I have a secret for you: You don’t need a fellows program to explore these ideas! If you’re a relative or friend of a fellow, I encourage you to spend this Christmas season (and the rest of your life) reflecting on who God is, who he has made you to be, and the reality of the world around you – it’s brokenness and beauty. Talk with your fellow about what he/she is learning this year. As you think about these things and as you step in to serve others, know that Jesus, the Light, is with you. He is powerful and enables you by his Spirit to give yourself away for the good of the world.
My dear fellows, enjoy this time of rest and restoration. Thanks for all of your hard work so far this year. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at the Winter Retreat.