Sunday, January 29, 2023

Thoughts of Light. . .

In an unforgettable ad for Motel 6, the tag line said by Tom Bodette was "We'll leave the light on for you."  Bodette had an NPR career before becoming the one and only voice of the motel chain known for sparse and low cost lodging.  It is said that Bodette ad libbed the line which became the close of every commercial for over 25 years.  It was included in the top 100 advertising campaign list.  The motels have, at best, a mixed reputation but Bodette was sheer genius.

I wish that we could be so clear as Christians and so consistent in our media presence.  We seem to delight in constantly re-inventing ourselves, as if tacitly admitting that people easily grow tired and bored of us.  Perhaps they do.  But the remedy to being ignored is hardly to keep changing your identity.  For a very long time my own church was known for saying A Changeless Christ in a Changing World.  It was first brought forth by The Lutheran Hour and all sorts of other Lutheran organizations copied the slogan.  Now we have either a complicated but elegant seal or a tri-color cross as our corporate logo.  Words have been replaced by the visual cue that is said to be more memorable and relevant to a people who have become largely visual learners -- whatever that means.

The circles of seasons in the Christmas cycle (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) have as a common theme the idea of light.  This is not simply a visual clue to the revelation but the very revelation itself.  For Advent, the wonderful hymns, especially the Swedish ones, focus on light, on the need to keep the lamps trimmed, the lights burning brightly, and to wait in joyful expectation for its fullness.  

From the wonderful promise that the long dark night of sin will soon be ending to the Judge on clouds of light to the King who comes when morning dawns to the Morning Star and Radiant Sun to the call to let your lights appear to the fifth of the O Antiphons (Dayspring and splendor of light), Advent calls us to awaken to the light and points us to the dawn of the Sun.  From the Son of God, love's pure light, to the Child appealing, Light revealing, to Thy light and grace to Hail! O ever blessed morn to out of darkness we have light to break forth, O beauteous heavenly light to born this happy morning to Sun of righteousness with light and life, the Christmas hymns sing of light.  From Christ the lightening to O Morning Star to night surrendering to day to a heavenly country that needs no created light to brightest and best of the stars of the morning to Jesus light of light to I want to walk as a child of the light to the people living in darkness a glorious light have seen to shining face and bright array, Epiphany builds upon that simple theme of light.  Not to mention the glorious Service of Light and the marvelous and ancient hymn Phos Hilaron -- wow!!!

God has placed the Church in the midst of the world's darkness to shine with the borrowed light of Christ.  It is not our greatness or eloquence or newness or accomplishment that makes us shine but only Christ, the one true light, in whom we live and who lives in us.  The world is filled with darkness -- not the literal darkness of a world lacking in light bulbs but a world in which the darkness is sin and sin is the darkness.  The shadows threaten to engulf us and overwhelm the light until we are blind but God has intervened in the darkness with His true and unfading light.  Christ is that light.  He shines and the darkness has not overcome it.  We may choose the shadows and darkness but Christ will not surrender us to its curse of brokenness, death, and despair.  It occurs to me that we ought to keep with a theme or tag line long enough so that the people know us as well by those words as they do anything else.

Some have tried.  Wise men still follow the Light.  One local congregation says simply "The Light Still Shines" but without obvious reference to Christ.  In some respects, Tom Bodette stole our line.  "We'll leave the light on for you" is the slogan of Christendom.  God is leaving the light on so that the darkness may not swallow up Christians or imprison the sinner without relief of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ.  God leaves the light on.  And if we are faithful, we will shine with that light, undiluted and changed, the true Light which is Christ.

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