A reflection on what it means to be a light to the world
Doing a bit of last-minute research in advance of Shell Chapel later today, I discovered that the British Museum was one of the first buildings in the UK to be lit electrically. Candles and oil lamps would have been too dangerous and their smoke would have damaged the artefacts. This means that before the lights were installed in the late nineteenth century, often the building had to close early because it would get too dark to see anything.
It sounds like a pretty obvious point to make, but not matter how many or how beautiful artefacts or pieces of art a museum has, without adequate lighting it will be very hard to see and appreciate them. A further Google search taught me that there are innumerous businesses selling dedicated museum lighting nowadays, something one could probably have guessed, but had never occurred to me.
One of Jesus’ famous sayings in Matthew’s Gospel is that we are ‘the light of the world’. But what does this mean, and how can we do this? At the beginning of a new academic year, and especially when you start in a new place, whether it is school, university, work or home, there is an opportunity to ‘re-invent’ yourself. I have already reflected a little on what this means in a previous post, but here are some further thoughts in the light of the quote above.
Each of us is uniquely made, and it is up to us to find what this means and how we can use this to the best of our ability. One of the ways to look at this is indeed to see ourselves as lights. Firstly, because we have the capacity to see the greatness and beauty of things around us. With our light, so to say, we can, and possibly must, learn to appreciate our environment. This not only includes nature, but indeed also others and their gifts and talents.
That brings us to the other way in which we are a light to the world, and that is by our duty to ‘illuminate’ others. To help others see the beauty of their own environment and themselves. That can be done very simply by giving someone a compliment or saying ‘thank you’. Or by just being around someone and encouraging them.
The way in which we are a light to the world, in both meanings, is different for each of us; as I already wrote, we are uniquely made. Just preceding these verses, Jesus also says that we are the salt of the earth, followed by the advice that we should not lose our saltiness. You don’t need much salt, and certainly not too much, to flavour, but a little bit can make all the difference.
So, find out what makes you unique, nourish and nurture it, and then use it to be a real light to the world.