Light of the World

Light of the World

By Ben S. Malayang III, President

(Sermon delivered during the All-University Advent Opening Worship on November 29, 2015, Silliman University.)

Text: John 8:1-2
Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Let us pray: We search, O Lord, your ways. We seek your will. We seek to do your work. But most of all, we seek you and your presence in our lives. We pray these, especially at this time, Amen.

Today, we begin the season of Advent. Advent is about Christ. It is about God’s Son descending down from holy heaven in order to become one with unholy humanity.

Christ has in fact already come, but we do this annual liturgy of reliving advent, the time when the world waited for God to send “His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but shall have eternal life.”

We relive the days when the world was in darkness and then, there was light!

Unfortunately, our world today continues to be in darkness. And this, because we had failed to keep the light of God – that had come – to keep shining

  • brighter than the blights of our humanity,
  • brighter than the perversions of our sinfulness, and
  • brighter than the ugliness of our arrogance.

Today, our world is not at peace. It is simmering and gurgling like a volcanic crater, hot and steaming with anger and wrath. It is darkened by the thick dark clouds coming from an angry boiling cauldron.

In fact, I think it might be best described by the acronym VULCAN.[1] V-U-L-C-A-N. Vulcan, the noun, was of course the Roman god of fire and of fiery and apocalyptic events like volcanic eruptions. Our term “volcano” derives from Vulcan, the mythic god of fire.

Starting with the letter V, our world is first of all, volatile. Just one small spark can lead to global conflagrations. A terrorist act somewhere immediately causes widespread political and emotional havoc, and an eruption of hatred across the world. A typhoon or earthquake could breakdown economies and political systems. An idea, or false accusation, could immediately spread like wildfire and change things, many things, forever.

And U. Because it is volatile, much of our world today is uncertain. You could never know what will come next, or how things happening today could cause a chain of events that would be hard to anticipate for what future outcomes they would create and produce, for good or for bad.

Then L. Our world is loose. Rules don’t seem to work. Relationships, loyalties and alliances keep changing at the slightest convenience or inconvenience of people. Social and political commitments are fragile. Party and ideological lines, and doctrines, are blurred as to know who really are who, or who are with whom, in any given day. Solidity and integrity of oaths and promises easily go down the drain. Friendships are fluid.

And C. Our world is complex. Every part is connected to many others. In Silliman for instance, every program, effort or activity, connects with many others. A decision to send out a faculty for a higher degree would have consequences on course loads, offerings and enrolments. Efforts to keep safe and strengthen our financial and fiscal infrastructure and on buffering the university from possible harms (from ourselves and from others), must be closely considered in relation to the sensitivities and well being of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public. Our prayer life (in church and across the campus) helps shape our academic, social and cultural well being in Silliman. Much more so the world beyond Silliman. The meltdown of an economy, or destruction of ecosystems, affects global development and social services, forever.

A is for ambiguous. It’s hard to make out what’s true or false in our world, or what’s right and wrong. Previously predictable orthodoxies have been convoluted into a mish-mash of overlapping and contesting heterodoxies. Who were once rabid opponents of capitalism are today’s most active pushers of commerce and trade. And who were once rabid advocates of free enterprise have today the most restrictive laws and taxes on private enterprise and production. In arts and sciences, in law and politics, what seems clear keeps being confused. There’s more confounding than settling questions. Declarations are more disturbing and diminishing than edifying and putting us at peace. Language is perverted into masking truths and intentions. Opaqueness is celebrated as brilliance, and brilliance kept under wraps by transactional politics and self-serving relations. It’s hard to know for sure the meaning and the truths (or untruths) of what’s being said because they are often couched in intricate equivocations and in propositions that are designed to mislead towards a wrong, rather than to lead towards a right.

And finally, N, for narcissistic. Across our world, we see ubiquitous swaths of vanity, conceit, selfishness and self-absorption. People, groups, societies and religions, seek to be satisfied more than to satisfy, to be served more than to serve others, and to lap on big bowls of lusts and greed rather than dish out love and compassion. Happiness and fulfillment are being equated with acquisitions and constant and ceaseless satisfaction of hedonistic approbation. When we meet others, we quickly set up defenses against how we might be used to satisfy their longings, or, worse, quickly think of ways to use them to satisfy our longings.

Our world today is like a volcano – angry, bubbling with hate, and on fire. And as in the world of Vulcan the fire god, once myth but seemingly now reality, our world most everywhere is steaming with angry flames creating a light that does not illumine but, instead, casts darkness, desolation, and depravations.

  • It is light that smothers truth, scorches justice, burns down all that is fair.
  • It is light that creates searing heat of hate.
  • It is light from hot embers of enmity and death.
  • It is light that makes night, like how a powerful and angry blast of lightning can blind you.

With the conflagration around us, the fire and fury, night is nigh in our world.

Darkness is descended.

But lo, in this darkening night, as it was in Bethlehem a long time ago, we can look up and see that there in the highest firmament of the heavens, comes to us the bright light of God.

  • First the angels, announcing that, as foretold, God is come to be with us and to be among us. The Immanuel is come.
  • Then the Child. A small Child. Quiet. Serene. In deep slumber. In the bleak darkness of the world, comes a baby in a manger, to cast
    • the Light of Salvation
    • the Light of Truth
    • the Light of Life
    • The one Light that subdues all lights.

And for those who care to rush to his manger bed like the shepherds of old, this baby casts a warm, soothing, and comforting glow of God’s presence.

  • A presence softly glowing with the light of love, light of justice and light of mercy, that all lead to holiness, and not to hate.
  • A presence palpitating with the power of a loving God, not the fire of an angry gun.

Come now, let us cast our eyes on the Light of Liberation and Freedom, a light that smothers the furious flames of destruction and fear in our world, a light that, once beheld in all its glory, will make us all leap, shout and sing “Joy to the World” because indeed Christ the Lord – the Light of the World – has come.

Come, all ye faithful, let us worship the Lord.

[1] An adaptation and expansion of “VUCA World”, a reference to today’s world being volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; see Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine, in Harvard Business Review Jan-Feb issue;