The influence of Thomas Alva Edison’s inventions on American life – and on life around the world – was so profound that when he died in October, 1931 the suggestion was made to then-president Herbert Hoover that in tribute to the inventor the entire electrical system of the United States should be turned off for one minute. The effect of this gesture would be to replicate the darkness that was the normal experience of life back in 1879, when Edison illuminated his first incandescent light bulb.
The president wisely did not go along with this suggestion. He realized that shutting off electrical power to the country would do far more than extinguish electric lights for a brief minute. The act would disrupt the entire nation and perhaps result in lost lives. Instead, Hoover recommended that citizens voluntarily turn off their lights for a minute, if it could be done safely, to honor the man whose brilliance impacted nearly every person’s life for the better. “The dependence of the country on electrical current for its life and health is a monument to Mr. Edison’s genius.”
It is nearly impossible for us to comprehend a world without electrical lighting. When a rare storm causes a temporary power outage we immediately contact the utility company to notify them and to enquire when the light will be restored. Many possess generators that stand ready to guard against an extended outage.
It is nearly impossible for us to comprehend a world without the light of Jesus Christ. John’s gospel records two times in which Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” The influence of the Savior on individual lives and on our western society cannot be measured. Jesus came to be light, exposing and expelling the darkness of ignorance and iniquity. Because of Christ, there is no need for anyone to wander aimlessly in unspoken despair. There is no need to wonder and worry about the meaning of the here and hereafter. Jesus came to enlighten our minds, revealing the truth of God. Jesus illumines our path and directs our way. Forgiveness, purpose, guidance, hope are all supplied by the light of the Lord.
The Savior also said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Jn. 9:5) But He has ascended to heaven. Whence then the light? He has delegated the role of illuminating the world now to His followers. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world.” Much the same as a full moon reflects the light of the sun, giving radiance to an otherwise dim and gloomy night; the people of God are to reflect the light of the Lord, letting their light so shine that others may see. The words and works of Christians are to be like a shining city on a hill which cannot be hid.
Unfortunately, the Christian’s light is often well hidden – like a lamp concealed under a bushel basket. The present enveloping darkness in our country and culture is in part evidence that the church is not shining conspicuously and brightly as the Lord intended it should.
On August 3, 1914, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey told a friend that diplomatic efforts to avoid war with Germany had failed. Employing light as a metaphor, he said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” What followed was the most destructive war in world history up to that time.
It is essential that the people of God take our lamp from under the bushel and set it up where others can see. The only way to combat darkness is to shine the light. We must endeavor to let the light of Christ shine brightly through us into this dark, sin-cursed world.
“Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8)