The Light of the World

Published December 23, 2021 by Sam Swart

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Back when I was a Scout, of sorts—a Webelo to be exact—I went on a father-son campout to Camp Strake. It was an entirely new experience for me as we were not a camping family. Besides all of the awesomeness of woodland trails, adolescent male mayhem, and campfires, something that was particularly striking to me was just how dark it was out there in the woods at night. Once the campfire was out and we were all tucked in the old army-style tents, the darkness just got so thick. Having always been a nightlight kind of kid (which I'll have you know I gave up after getting married), experiencing total darkness was unsettling. At bedtime there were still enough camp sounds that I was reassured all was OK and I fell asleep.

At some point during the night, I woke up—at least it felt like I woke up—and it was just so completely dark. I could not see a thing. As the old saying goes, I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. My logical conclusion to this sensory deprived awareness was that I might be dead. While my thoroughly Baptist upbringing informed me that was not necessarily a bad state to be in, it was still quite scary. At some point I had enough of these thoughts and started calling for my dad. He quickly stirred and switched on his flashlight. The tent was immediately and fully illuminated. Dad said everything was OK, we weren't dead, and that I was safe.

While my dad made a strong case for our state of living, it was the light that convinced me—the impenetrable darkness had been pushed back. John the Gospel writer echoes the ancient writers and uses light as metaphor for the Word or the very truth of God—personified in Jesus. It cleanses, it exposes evil, but more than anything it rescues us from the despair of darkness; and my friends, we know the darkness is real. Advent is the perfect time of year to remind ourselves once again of the truth that the light is with us and darkness has no power to resist it.

Sam Swart and his wife Lisa joined South Main in 1988. They are the parents of Grace and Ned. He plays in the South Main Brass and has volunteered at construction mission trips.