“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, 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.”
On a recent trip to the mid-west, I found myself among thousands of travelers in O’hare airport in Chicago. There is no better place, I am sure, to have a sense of one’s utter insignificance! Crowds of anonymous people come and go with studied indifference to those around them.
At the same time, should you happen to strike up a conversation with someone even for a few minutes, you suddenly become part of their history, their story. Something that is said may stay with you. You might pass it along to someone else. Or, you might have made a business connection. I heard once of a couple who met in an airport who later were married.
The season of Epiphany, which we are in now, is that time in the church year when special emphasis is placed on the light of Christ shining in the darkness. That’s another way of saying that God is not anonymous. In Jesus, who we call the Messiah, God has become part of His own history and ours. And when someone becomes part of your story, it is not an abstraction. It makes an impact, a difference.
Many historical figures have made their impact on the wider world. The war tactics of Alexander, picked up by the Romans, continue to define military operations up to the present. The writings of the Roman orator, Cicero, were one of the most important influences on the development of the European and American systems of governance. Four lads from Liverpool catalyzed the adolescent hysteria of a generation, which has never fully calmed down.
When you were baptized, your history and God’s history were joined in the intimacy of the Spirit. Adoption is one word we use for it. In conformity with the entire trajectory of the biblical witness to Emmanuel, God took the initiative to enter the numbing anonymity of a sinful world and a sinful life – yours. In baptism God entered your story, to claim you as His own by His grace, to be God with and for you, to make you a living member of His body, the Church. But what difference does it make? If living by grace does not in some real, tangible sense become our way of life then are not our claims to life with God nothing but a religious abstraction, a vague, internal ‘spirituality’ which makes no real difference in our lives?
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”