Celebrating Darkness

Since 2007, Earth Hour is being observed worldwide on the last Saturday of March. The event is growing in popularity as more and more individuals, communities, households and businesses join the movement every year to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time. In 2017, Earth Hour will be observed on 25 March.

In the beginning, says the Bible, there was darkness. But God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light, and God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:1-5) In God’s scheme of creation, light came first, life came later. Without light, there cannot be life. No wonder that scientists and historians refer to the era of primitive human life as the dark ages.

But while the Old Testament documents the creation of light and its goodness, the New Testament makes the admission that human beings loved darkness rather than light! So God had to send his own son to give light and life to the world. (John 3:16-19)

Jesus spoke about himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He also wanted his enlightened followers to propagate that light. “You are the light of the world”, he said to them, “a city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

God’s desire was to have his creation illuminated by his light. If our present generation is celebrating darkness, there is perhaps a need to ponder over our priorities, directions and definitions of human life.

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The Vanity of Life

What is life like?

Solomon, in his Book of Wisdom (5:10-14), has tried to explain life in terms of what we commonly observe in the air and sea:

Life is like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, no track of its keel in the waves…

It is like a bird that flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found; the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions and pierced by the force of its rushing flight, is traversed by the movement of its wings, and afterward no sign of its coming is found there…

Or, life may be like an arrow that is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway…

It is like a thistledown carried by the wind, or like a light frost driven away by a storm, like smoke dispersed before the wind…

Solomon compares life to a rumour that passes by. Life passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day…

He summarises the vanity of life saying that as soon as we are born, we cease to be…

But that is not all. Solomon adds this optimistic note to a seemingly hopeless situation: But the righteous live forever, and their reward is with the Lord. (5:15)

Showing Mercy

Unlike love, mercy is not an emotion. One can love another person without ever expressing it openly. But mercy needs to be shown, it involves action. Unlike love which may not always be available from others, mercy can be asked for. Even a convict against whom the final judgement has been pronounced, can make an appeal for mercy to a higher authority.

“God, be merciful to me this sinner!” is the shortest but complete prayer that anyone can possibly pray. (Luke 18:13) It is echoed throughout the Book of Psalms. It is the petition with which many people approached Jesus and he heard them and cured them of their afflictions.

The concept of mercy was explained by Jesus through his parable of the unmerciful or ruthless servant. (Matthew 18:23-35) Briefly, the parable runs somewhat like this: “There was a king whose servant owed him a huge sum of money and he wanted the money back. The servant was not in a position to return it and he asked the king for time. The king was merciful and he wrote off his massive debt. However, this servant later met one of his fellow servants who happened to owe him a small debt. He grabbed his debtor by the throat, would not listen to his plea, and put him in jail. When the king learnt about this, he was greatly annoyed. He called him and said, ‘You wicked man! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ The angry king ordered that he may be made to repay his debt using coercive means.”

The lesson from this parable is that it is God’s requirement that we show mercy to others, else we will not be shown mercy by God. However, there is another positive law of reciprocity that is also in operation in God’s kingdom. As Jesus has said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

 

 

Newness of Life

As time passes, we get older. Not only us. Our homes, our clothes, our possessions, all look older. They lose the freshness they once had. Books have to be dusted, walls painted, curtains washed. Things lose their shine with time. Brassware, silver, even the gold medals and awards we may have won, need to be polished. Gadgets wear out as they get old and require maintenance. The fragrance of flowers, the juiciness of fruits, the aroma of freshly baked bread, last but for a while.

Everything becomes stale with time and needs rest and recovery. That is why God had commanded his people to abstain from work on the seventh day and to keep that day holy. (Exodus 20:8) Not only that, every seven years, farmland was to be given rest, and no crop could be sown in that year. (Leviticus 25:4)

In today’s world, we have no time to wait or relax . Night and day make little difference to life. But in our continuous effort to remain productive, efficient, informed and presentable, we start becoming stale somewhere on the way. Aging sets in slowly but surely. We try to put up a bold appearance, and we may even succeed, but inwardly we begin to wear out.

That is where St Paul’s argument about the newness of life becomes very appealing even in this modern age. (Romans 6:4, 7:6) He says that the old law of sin and punishment is no longer applicable to those who have come to know Christ. They do not have to be bound by the oldness of the written law, but they must learn to walk in the newness of life which is in the spirit.

God Does Not Change

It is often said that change is the only constant factor in human life. As time passes, most things in this world lose their importance, become useless or serve no purpose. Things, people and events are fast forgotten. Life’s values change, lifestyle changes, our way of thinking changes all the time.

In my own life of 73 years I have seen so much change. I was born under British rule. When I was four years old, India got independence and became a democracy. Earlier we had rupees, annas and pies as currency, then came the decimal rupee-paise system. When I was small, a 1-rupee note in my pocket made me feel rich. Today, I have 2000-rupee notes in my wallet! Earlier we would measure cloth in yards, weigh in pounds or seers, buy petrol in gallons. Then came the metre, kilometre, litre and kilogram.

I remember travelling in trams and victorias in Bombay and tongas in Poona a few decades ago. Nowadays many Indian cities have metros running. When I was small, we used coal for cooking, now there is LPG. We studied in the dim light of lanterns, now there are LED lamps. Bullock carts have been replaced by tractors in the villages and bicycles by motorbikes in cities. Postcards and telegrams have made way to sms and emails. The earth was then cool, now it is warm!

In this ever-changing world, however, God remains unchanged. Thousands of years ago he had made a covenant with his chosen people, which is now known as the Old Testament. Because two thousand years ago he sent his own son to earth and a New Testament came into being between God and man. But in all this, God remained what he was. “I the Lord do not change” is what he has affirmed about himself. (Malachi 3:6) And his son “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Whatever may happen to this world, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are going to be there with us in any situation. They will protect us and solidly support us. The promises of the Bible will be fulfilled. What a reassurance we have as we step into the future and begin another new year!