December always brings short days and long dark nights, which makes sparkling Christmas lights even more welcome. Every year I appreciate how their bright glow lightens this darkest time of the year. How fitting that the light begins to increase each day as we pass the winter solstice on December 21st –so symbolic of the birth of Christ, the Light.
Jesus, the Light of Life
Years ago I was witness to a stunning testimony that Jesus is truly “the light which shineth in darkness.” I still remember clearly listening to a man in his thirties tell of losing his job, family, and membership in the Church when he was incarcerated in a state prison. It was the dark night of his soul, and he was in despair. Then special couple missionaries taught him of a Christ he had not known or understood, though he had been a member of the Church all his life. He learned what repentance really meant and how the Atonement applied to him personally. He dared to believe Christ’s promises in the scriptures, dared to try an experiment on the Word. The light and love of the Lord began to come into his life.
I was astonished when he said he had been released from prison only a few days earlier. His countenance was full of light; his words full of hope. His testimony of the Savior’s power in his life was strong and sure. I saw a living witness that day of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, born into the world to wipe away our sins. We are assured in D&C 93: 1-2 that “every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name . . shall . . . know . . . that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The light in my soul glows brighter because of a testimony I not only heard, but saw, in the light radiating from a repentant child of God. Jesus is the true light!
Physical Darkness, Spiritual Darkness
I was a teenager the first time I experienced utter darkness. My family and I had hiked, perspiring through the bright sunshine of a hot summer day, to the Timpanogos Caves. Forest rangers carrying brightly shining lanterns led us into the cave’s cool, water-carved interior. Deep inside, they turned off the lanterns for one long minute, and suggested we try to see our hands in front of our faces. Most of us had never experienced total darkness before, and were stunned to realize that we could see–NOTHING. I appreciated so much more the laments of the Book of Mormon people who were left in thick darkness following the death of the Savior.
My experience with physical darkness helps me appreciate more fully the awfulness of spiritual darkness–where the soul is without light and truth, without hope in Christ, where NOTHING spiritual is seen with spiritual clarity.
It is the nature of mortality that we experience opposites–including the contrast between darkness and light. However, it strikes me as one of life’s great ironies that–having been taught the true doctrine of Christ–I should ever choose to drag chains of darkness from the past or choose to remain in darkness of any kind. How can I ever lose hope when the cleansing, rejuvenating power of Christ’s light is so clearly available?
Scriptural Symbolism of Light
Book of Mormon people were given such a fitting symbol of Christ’s birth: the day and a night and a day without darkness! 3 Nephi 1:19 says, “and it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.” Luke 1:79 tells us that Jesus was born “to give light to them that sit in darkness.”
In this wicked “last days” world many sit in darkness. This darkness can encroach on me whenever I fail to remember Christ, the Light. When I’m restless or worried in the middle of a dark night, I’m always relieved when light returns. As the darkness thins, I see outlines. As the light increases, I see details, and finally when the sun peeps over the mountains, light streams through my windows.
So it is with my spiritual life: as I draw nearer the Source, the darkness of my life decreases, and my spiritual sight improves. The light of each new day reminds me that Christ’s light always streams into my soul like the light of dawn when I turn to Him–no matter how dark the night has been. The return of light is so comforting, so freeing when I’ve been surrounded by darkness.
Only Light has the Power to Repel Darkness
I’ve learned I cannot diminish the darkness of the world by fearing it, hating it, attacking it, fighting it, or contending with it. But when I remember the Lord of Light, pray in His name, think of Him, feast on His words, and renew my covenants with Him, His light simply dispels the darkness. Douglas T. Bentley suggested that we, “picture a darkened room at midday. If we were to open the blinds, the room would immediately be flooded with light, which would displace the darkness. Now let’s reverse the situation for a minute. Imagine being in a lighted room at midnight. If we open the blinds will the room suddenly be flooded with the darkness from outside? Of course not. But . . . why? What is there about light that makes it so different from darkness? Light will repel darkness, but darkness has no power over light. In fact all that darkness appears to be, is the absence of light” (Abraham’s Seed and Covenant, p. 114). Since Jesus IS the light, spiritual darkness is simply the absence of the Savior. His presence, His spirit repels the darkness of the world.
So many scriptures verify that He is our never-ending source of Light, such as: “He [Christ] is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened” (Mosiah 16:9).
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth, a light which cannot be hid in darkness (D&C 14:9).
Jesus came to earth in the “meridian of time.” One of the definitions of “meridian” is: “Of or pertaining to midday (the greatest point of light).” He is not only our greatest point of light, but our only hope to counter mortal darkness and spiritual death. D&C 11:29 says, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world.”
To encapsulate the idea that light and darkness cannot co-exist, that the tiniest light from Christ prevails over the thickest darkness, I once wrote a poem about a person trying to defeat daunting darkness by carrying it out of the room in buckets.
Defeated, exhausted, soon proven powerless, his task was obviously impossible. When a Friend appeared with one tiny, lighted candle he discarded his bucket and ran to retrieve his candles. His Friend’s candle lost no light by lighting his. He passed the flame to candle after candle, finding this effort not exhausting, but full of joy! Each tiny flame ate hungrily, voraciously, big gulps of darkness, replacing it with shimmering light. And he, a child of Light, now knew his one true task.
Light Cleaves Unto Light
Because we are children of God, we are beings of truth and light (D&C 93:29). Unless our hearts are hard, we recognize truth when we hear it. When a friend was serving a mission in Fiji, she told the Christmas story to two beautiful young girls and their mother. They had never heard it before and were sparkly eyed and enchanted–delighted to think they could celebrate the birth of the Savior as Christmas approached. Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
How Can I Remember to Turn to the Light?
1. I can ask the Savior to “enlighten the eyes of my heart” with clearer spiritual vision. Someone once bluntly asked blind and deaf Helen Keller, “Isn’t it terrible to be blind?” She responded, “Better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” I’ve always loved the idea that the first face Helen saw clearly was Jesus’ light-filled face when she passed through the veil! As I confront the darkness of the world I need 20/20 spiritual vision brought only through prayer and connection with the Spirit.
2. I love to sing hymns full of the light of the gospel and recite the words in my mind. One of my favorite is: “The Lord is my light, my all and in all. There is in His sight no darkness at all. He is my Redeemer, My Savior and King. With Saints and with angels his praises I’ll sing.” (Hymn # 89, verse 4)
3. I love to feel guided by the light, I love the light of the Holy Spirit that testifies of truth and assures me I am God’s beloved child. I love the light of inspiration when I sense the light of truth. I love the light of testimony when I am overwhelmed with realization that I know that I know. I love the feeling of following the light, being committed to the light. The Holy Ghost can help me to remember the Light.
4. I can turn to the “Light” of Christ’s word, looking to the scriptures for guidance and truth. Every year as I celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Lord of Light, I renew my commitment to scripture study. Sometimes I take a scripture that lightens my soul, write it in a notebook, and personalize it–adding my name. Example: D&C 88:67: “And if your eye be single to my glory, [Darla], your whole body shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” Then I write how that scripture applies to me, how I feel about it, how I can make it real in my life. It is a powerful exercise, and the light of the Spirit, Christ’s light in my life burns brighter each time I do it.
5. I can commit my time, talents, and resources to the building up of the Kingdom and the preparation of a people ready to meet the Savior. In D&C 88:67 we read, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” How can my eye be single to His glory? What is His glory? Moses 1:39 tells us, “For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Any time I’m enlisted in the Lord’s work to bless His children, I am increasing His light in the world.
6. I can determine to continue to turn toward, not away from the Light of the Lord, no matter how dark things seem to be. I like to ponder the analogy that any time we turn to Him, we find light for our way.
I had an experience that vividly illustrates that point. One evening after a fireside a few of us stayed to clean up in the kitchen. I suddenly remembered I had left my coat on a chair on the stage. I went to retrieve it and found everything dark. I couldn’t find the light switch, but since the light was on in the hall and I knew just where my coat was, I forged ahead into the darkness. I banged into a few chairs, but finally found my way to my coat and turned to go back into the hall. Now facing a source of light, I could clearly see the silhouette of every obstacle and was able to easily find my way back across the stage. And so it is with all of life. Turning toward the light is the only way to find our way!
I can say in a deeper, stronger way this year that I know God lives. I know that Satan lives, too, but that the light and power of Christ can thwart his every design on us and dispel the darkness of his influence. I know that the babe of Bethlehem is Jesus the Christ, the son of God who loves each of us in a personal, powerful way–that He has our names written on the palms of his hand, that He leaves the ninety and nine and goes after us whenever we stray. He never gives up on us; His light will eventually cause all darkness to flee. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light we shall see light” (Psalm 36:9).
He is truly “The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men” (D&C 93:9). “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5)
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . I am the light which shineth in darkness.” (D&C 10: 57-58)