I’ve been listening a lot recently to the new Cloud Cult album, “Light Chasers.” Cloud Cult is a Minneapolis alternative band with haunting, lyrical music. “Light Chasers” is well-named—full of spiritual hunger, curiosity, and hope. Annie Dillard once wrote, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.” There is plenty of darkness surrounding the light in Cloud Cult’s work, partly because the lead singer lost a child at age two several years ago. This isn’t the light of an easy optimism, but of a deeper search through a vast expanse of largely empty space.
I think many of us are searching for illumination in our lives. Our culture is filled with the chasing of light, often in the wrong places. We live in the legacy of the Enlightenment, which brought many wonderful things to the world, but also a sense that we could, through our own individual reason, control the universe. That has proven an unworkable premise, and the darkness hasn’t gone away, especially in the human heart.
Jesus talked about light a lot. He said, “I am the light of the world” and told his friends that they were to be light to their neighbors. What he meant by this, I think, is that his life, death, and resurrection show forth humanity as it is meant to be. Followers or friends of Jesus are empowered, through God’s Spirit, to share that light with others. We don’t need to chase the light, according to the Christian story: the light has come to us. We don’t need to go invent it or try to realize it through our own efforts; rather, we can receive it from God and are invited to spread it around. This isn’t the light of easy answers to life’s tough questions. It is the light of a living relationship with the One who gives life to us all.
As I write this, the protests in Cairo are bringing forth a very public kind of light—the light of a people long oppressed who are inspired to rise up together for justice. Such moments are often the work of the Spirit of God, who creates new and reconciled community and establishes mercy and justice in human life. There is plenty of darkness around these protests, and who knows how they will turn out. But it is a reminder that the kind of light that Jesus talks about isn’t just the private spiritual illumination of individual seekers, but rather the public manifestation of God’s healing in and among human community (the Prophet Isaiah talks about this powerfully in chapter 58).
The days are getting longer now in this Epiphany season. God’s light has come to us and breaks forth for all nations. Can you see it? Can you share it?