This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
First Pres Parish Nurse.
As the Christmas season has drawn to a close and we are reaching the end of January, I am left reflecting on the power of light. Beginning in September our days slowly get shorter. Last year, Wednesday, December 21, was the shortest day of 2022, and the sun set at 4:23 p.m. It marked the beginning of winter.
But each day since, the days have been getting longer. After New Year’s Day, the amount of daylight starts to jump measurably, going up roughly two minutes each day by the middle of January and by more than three minutes each day by the month’s end.
This January was particularly cloudy. The percent of possible sunshine through January 19 stood at 20%, which was tied for the least amount of sunshine for any January in Chicago since 1894.
Individually, we all must contend with various forces of darkness. We have the physical reality of less daylight and longer nights. There are, as well, emotional, and spiritual sources of darkness that can be very challenging. We may need to face the reality of chronic illness or the death of a loved one. We may feel punished, abandoned or even unloved by God. Many things happen in life that can be hard to navigate and accept.
We can also easily be overwhelmed by events going on around us. We awaken to news of the latest atrocities of the war in Ukraine, the loss of innocent life and unrelenting bombing. In the shadows of our own neighborhoods, we hear of violence in our streets, our schools, and our churches.
Personal challenges, heartaches, and the miseries of others are always going to be a part of our lives. There are no easy ways to dispel the forces of violence or death, the hopelessness of poverty, or the discouragement of our mentally ill. Each generation has sought a more loving, merciful, and peaceful world. These are countercultural values in a culture that thrives on gossip and criticism.
So, where does our light come from in this seemingly dark existence?
Our light comes from our faith, the same faith that tells us “I shall submit you as a light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 49:6). In our dark times, we need to be reminded of the power of our Lord’s light. We must accept the challenge put before us to testify to the good in this life and let go of negative thinking and doubt.
We here at First Presbyterian Church of Evanston are accepting that challenge. In Matthew 5:15 it says, “If I make you a light bearer, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand.” (FYI, our Scripture reference this Sunday during our worship and communion service at 9:30 a.m. is Matthew 5:13-20.)
We are serving meals, every Saturday, to the vulnerable in our community. We are gently caring for refugee families as they navigate a completely new home and lifestyle. We are walking beside our grieving and broken congregants by providing meals, making prayer shawls, providing rides, or offering a listening ear. We are sharing our beliefs and our vision of service with the youth of First Pres so that they too will grow into confident faithful adults. We are creating a weekly service that touches those that attend and makes them feel empowered to go about their week. We are on a light stand!
While dwelling on the forces of darkness and evil are real, we are also surrounded by the forces of hope and light. We, ourselves, can be the bearers of great light and we can make ourselves more aware of the great light in others.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
“I will make you a light to the nations” is the prophecy we hear from Isaiah. As we consider how we will be the Head, Heart, and Hands of Christ, we need to be reminded of the power of the Lord’s light, of his challenge to us to testify to the good in this life, and of how we can avoid the grip of sinfulness and negative thinking.
We are bearers of the light! We testify to hope, to those who witness to love, to seek mercy and affirm.
By the way, on Friday, February 3, 2023, the sun will set at 5:08 p.m., 45 more minutes of light since winter began.
Walking with you in the light,
First Pres Parish Nurse