Dear St. Paul Family,
LIGHT FOLLOWS DARKNESS
I found those words on a sundial in downtown Gonzales on one of my Saturday road trips only a few months after I moved to Austin. Perhaps they’ve stuck with me because at the time I had just begun to see the light again after a very dark period in my life. They are of course appropriate for a sundial because each day at dawn, light indeed follows darkness. At this time of the year they are also appropriate, since at the beginning of the new year, the days have begun to lengthen again after reaching their darkest point in late December.
We naturally see both of these temporal transitions when light follows darkness as new beginnings. Each year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions with the intent of making our own new beginning. More often than not, though, our results don’t match our intentions. Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast, and the guest stated that studies show that by January 21st, most people have already given up and lapsed into their old habits.
Yes, our attempts to “do better” by making decisions to do or not do something quite often end in failure. Luther experienced this when he reportedly spent hours confessing to Staupitz, only to to sin again and repeat the process. The darkness of sin casts a heavy shadow over our lives.
Even in the most joyful of moments, that shadow is there. It is the same darkness that leaves us unable to consistently follow through on our best intentions to do better, and left us dead in our sins from the moment of conception. It is the same darkness that began to spread after the fall, when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. But light follows darkness, and it was into this heavy darkness that the Light of the World came some two thousand years ago.
That heavy shadow was perhaps at its darkest on Good Friday, when our Lord suffered and died for our sins. But Light followed darkness, and the Light of Light rose again and left the tomb on that first Eastern morning, and He will come again, “the pow’rs of hell to vanquish as the darkness clears away.”
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” — John 8:12
In our own lives, Light followed darkness when the waters of Baptism were poured over us and we were baptized into the Name of the Triune God. Because of that, we do not have to walk in darkness. St. Paul teaches in Romans 6 that we have been baptized into His death, and as a result we will also share in His resurrection. Our baptism is our new beginning, when we were born again, of water and the Spirit, as our Lord described to Nicodemus in John 3. Because of that new birth, we will join Him in eternity, when His light finally clears away the shadows and darkness forever.
In Revelation 21:5, St. John tells us what that will look like:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
As we move into 2018 and the days grow longer, remember your baptism. Each day when the light of the morning follows the darkness of the night before, remember your baptism. When you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and even if you do not, remember your baptism. The Light has followed the darkness, and He will make all things new.
If you live in repentance, you walk in Baptism. For Baptism not only illustrates such a new life, but also produces, begins, and exercises it. For in Baptism we are given grace, the Spirit, and power to suppress the old [nature], so that the new [nature] may come forth and become strong. (LC IV.75b-76)
In nomine Jesu,