The Light Shines in the Darkness {and the darkness does not overcome it}

My husband and I sat for a few moments in the waning daylight of September’s first day, swatting away persistent mosquitoes and chatting about unfinished summer projects.

The bittersweet end of August that sidles up to the beginning of Autumn always surprises me by the quick demise of sunlight and sudden arrival of the evening. Honestly, it wasn’t dark like this at the same time yesterday….

The upside of a finished sunset is the arrival of the fairy lights that appear entwined in the already-bloomed clematis–they show up so much better when there is a velvet background to their twinkling.

Light always shows up better in the dark.

…..

Seasons in nature often parallel the reflections and reading I am doing in my actual, physical life and I’m currently reading (among other things) the Harry Potter book series.

I’m a very late adopter of this story series. I frankly never could see the draw and the private school where I was teaching in 1997 when the book came out had a significant influence on my opinions. “How could a Christian read such a book? It’s all about witches and wizards.”

(Well, it is, but it is also about so.much.more.)

“Don’t you know what Scripture has to say about witchcraft and sorcery?”

(Yes. Yes, I do. But I’m not sure those verses mean what we say they mean. But I digress.)

As a result of these arguments I dismissed the Harry Potter books out of hand without ever reading them. That’s the problem with dismissing things before we’ve read or listened to the whole story–forming an opinion before having all the facts is a shortsighted approach.

Alas and anon and praise God, my imaginative horizons have grown in the last several years to include writers like George MacDonald, much of Tolkein (hello Hobbit) and of course the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis’. I will posit this in light of this discussion: If Christ-followers threw away every book that had witches and wizards in it, how would we understand an enfleshed kingdom of light and the fight against darkness?

*****

Because I read several books at once, you’ll also notice in my book stack a book by Frederick Buechner, Presbyterian minister and author of nearly forty books. He passed away at the age of 96 on August 15th.  There’s an echo of this thought about the power of stories to deal with good and evil, light and darkness in his essay “The Sprig of Hope,” about the life of Noah.

for all our strategems, the legends, the myths persist among us, and even in the guise of fairy tales for the young they continue to embody truths or intuitions that in the long run it is perhaps more dangerous to evade than to confront.

There are many who would posit that Harry Potter is a representation of God’s character and person–an unassuming character who dares to confront evil that is hidden in the shadows. He is also self-sacrificing, humble, brave, uncomplaining and willing to risk his life for what is right.

*****
Jesus used metaphors, allegories and parables to tell the truth in a way that people could relate to.  In a similar way, the author of these books is wrapping, I believe, deep truth in the lines of her books.
There is a sentence at the end of the last chapter in Book One written in all caps.
Harry dares to say the name of Voldemort, the person who shall not be named, evil personified who has throughout the book sought to take Harry’s life.
I think Harry is on to something as he hollers at his friends that want him to be quiet. “I’VE MET HIM AND I’M CALLING HIM BY HIS NAME!” Harry declares to everyone’s shock and surprise. No one else is brave enough to mention the enemy’s name.
Scripture says to resist the Devil and he will flee. Replace ‘devil’ with ‘darkness’ and you get the idea.
It doesn’t say, “ignore the darkness” or “curse the darkness” but resist it. In order to resist it you have to face it.
We can only fight the darkness by naming it and holding out the light of Jesus. As Buechner reflects in the quote above, it is dangerous to evade the truth.
*****
In the beginning of Book Two there’s a line that has clinched it for me as far as the parallels between the character of Harry and that of a Christ figure. Harry’s very existence defies the attacks against him; he simply shouldn’t be alive.
Here is the phrase I underlined, “…nobody could understood why, but Voldemort’s powers had been destroyed the instant he had failed to kill Harry.” From Chapter 1, “The Worst Birthday.”
The continuing theme of the book series is the actions of a dark lord seeking revenge against the Boy Who Would Not Die, as HP is often referred to. The parallel I found is this: Our enemy was defeated and destroyed the moment he failed to kill Jesus.
*****
We live in a world where fear would seek to leave us helpless and hopeless. Naming and facing the fears–for the future, for our freedoms, for our faith–give us the power in naming the person of Jesus that will hold the light so desperately needed. But we also have to be willing name and acknowledge the darkness.
We know as believers that our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the unseen rulers of darkness in the heavenlies.
We aren’t called to battle by running away or ignoring the evil but by living with the power given to us as children of God to declare the truth.
Let’s tell good stories based on what God has done in our own lives to set us free from darkness and bringing us into his marvelous light, however he’s chosen to do that. He uses many things–other people, good books and the best Book there is–his Word.
Let’s be a light in the darkness. We’re only going to shine brighter in the days ahead.

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2 thoughts on “The Light Shines in the Darkness {and the darkness does not overcome it}

  1. Thank you for the reminder and rallying cry, Jody, so needed these days. Here’s to retelling the good tales of God’s faithfulness!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement, Jody, to shine in the darkness with our good stories of what God has done in our lives. I love the idea of all of us Jesus-followers providing fairy-lights of truth, joy, peace, and hope across our land, at a time when many are desperate in their darkness. Lord God, help us to shine brighter than ever!

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