I hate phone chargers. That's not true, I hate chargers that have an LED indicator. Especially those really bright blue ones. At night, when I'm struggling to sleep, they seem to light up the whole room. That is why all of mine have a blob of blu-tack over them.
Have you ever noticed that even the smallest of lights can actually light a large area? Hold a match up in a fully lit room, and it seems to give off a little bit of light. But light that same match in a pitch black room, and suddenly you can see an awful lot.
In the Gospels, one of the first things John says is 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it' (John 1:5 NRSV). Light is extremely powerful, light can change how the world is seen. Light expels darkness, and there is nothing the darkness can do to fight back.
And as Christians, we are called to be the light. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light, the hill on a city, which would be a beacon of safety and security for others. And then he points out that 'No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it under the bushel basket' (Matthew 5:15 NRSV). What a obvious waste that would be!
But if I could, I would add an extra verse in there. Call it Matthew 5: 15.1 (The 'Matthew' pun was entirely accidental!) I would want to add 'No one, after lighting a lamp, leaves it in an already fully lit room.' What good is it to light a lamp in a room where there is already plenty of light? Your new lamp isn't able to show its full potential. That lamp is going to do so much better in a place currently shroud in darkness, isn't it?
So, if we, as Christians, are called to be lights in the world, where is our light going to be most useful? In our nice, comfy, well lit churches on a Sunday Morning, or outside; in the pubs, on the streets, where there light of the good news of Jesus isn't already obvious?
This is a theme that seems to be popping up all over the place for me recently. I have a tweet favourited, so I see it most days when I have Tweetdeck open. It is a quotation by William Shedd; 'A ship is safe in harbour, but that's not what ships are for ' Its the same as light. A ship works perfectly well inside the safety of the harbour walls; it'll float, hold cargo, stop people getting wet. But that's not its full potential. A ship is only really useful when it moves outside the harbour.
I'm not saying that Sunday services don't offer a much needed... service... If we think of the lamp as a piece of wood, an old fashioned torch, sometimes they need to be put back into a bigger fire to keep them burning brightly. This is something I used to find fascinating as a Scout; a stick would go out, but put it back into the heat of the fire and it would burst back into flame. Sometimes we need to be in the presence of others to re-energise, to get that spark back. Its the same as the ship, sometimes they need to go back to the safety of the harbour; to refuel, restock supplies and repair any damage. Sunday, 10:30 is a time to get restock, find that spark, be with others who energise us, but that can't be all our faith is.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think that our faith calls us to go outside what is comfortable, familiar, well lit, to the places where we can make the most difference. Jesus, it seems, spent a lot more time and energy outside the Temple, meeting people where they were, making the difference that they needed. And I think that is what we are called to do.
So this Christmas time, as we remember the Light of the World coming down into the Darkness, I'd like to challenge you to think about where your light could be best shone over the next year. And let your light shine for all the world to see.