By Joel A. Hess –
January is a dark month. Christmas is over. Family has gone home. Decorations are down. The days are short. The nights are long. And in the northern Midwest it is downright freezing! The Winter blues even has a name: seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. Apparently the lack of light can affect our outlook on life. No duh!
Ironically, in the dead of winter, the Church celebrates the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is what happens when a truth suddenly dawns upon you. It’s an “aha” moment. It’s like when you realized coffee makes life better. Just joking. The ultimate epiphany is the coming of God in the flesh to rescue us from the darkness of sin and death. And it is dark out there.
Humanity has been under a winter depression since Adam and Eve ate the apple and found themselves on the wrong side of the garden gate. Sin affects us like a nuclear bomb or volcano. It not only does damage with the initial explosion, but sends so much debris into the sky that the sun is blocked, causing long term devastation. The world is dark because our sin clouds our minds and heart from seeing God.
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world! Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” He is the light for sure. He does what light does. In our shame and guilt that turns us inward, Jesus lifts the darkness with His forgiveness! Even our fear of death is removed as He rose from the dead and tells us that He will raise us too. He gives us hope. There is nothing too dark, too frightening, too awful, that Jesus does not forgive and love.
It’s easy to stare at the darkness and dwell on all that is wrong in the world and in our lives. I suppose it would be wrong if we didn’t recognize how dark this world is. Blessed are those who mourn. There are many people that pretend everything is just fine.
But if you want to get over this seasonal depression disorder, you need more light in your day. That’s what Church services are all about. How sad that some Christians almost make worship services into a new year’s resolution to exercise. I have actually heard pastors complain, “God gives us everything and you can’t even give Him one hour on a Sunday?” That’s not the point of going to a Church service at all! God in no way needs you to come to church!
A service of preaching God’s Word and handing out communion is God’s way of shining His light in our dark lives! Through His Word and holy supper God shines His light upon us, calling us to repentance and giving us forgiveness and life. A church service is God’s reality of dead men walking and sin forgiven. It kicks darkness out. It exorcises the darkness, let alone Satan and sin. David says in the psalms, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.” God’s Word isn’t a lamp just because it tells right and wrong. It’s a lamp because it washes all our darkness away in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection.
There are people all around us who are suffocating in the darkness of this world. Jesus literally says to us in Matthew chapter 5, “You are the light of the world! Let your light shine!” May God shine through our words and deeds so that our community and surrounding area knows that there is hope in this messed up world!