Turn on the Light

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

A few days ago my daughter Quinn had an experience many of us have had before. She was playing in her toy room as the afternoon sun went down. Because she started playing when it was still quite bright there was really no reason to turn on the lights. However, by the time she was wrapping up, it was quite dark to say the least. Thinking I was doing her a favor I entered the room and hit the overhead light. Immediately she screamed, “Too bright! Too bright! Turn them off! Turn them off!” I turned the lights off and slowly backed out of the room (…thinking that dramatic performance could have won an Oscar, and I’m going to be in trouble when this girl hits 13. I digress).

But the whole thing got me thinking. Here I was trying to help my daughter continue her playing, not ruin it. I noticed it was really dark, and I knew there was a better way. But I didn’t realize when I turned on the lights that she had been playing in the dark so long, that now it was the dark she was used to. It was the dark where she was comfortable. It was the dark where she would have rather stayed.

The gospel of John’s introduction is a bit different than the Christmas story of Matthew and Luke. John starts,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of the people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”

John starts by introducing Jesus as life and as light.

Which gives me a theory about why I sometimes don’t receive all the promises he has in store for me. Maybe I’m like a kid playing in the dark. Maybe I’ve been living in the dark too long. Maybe you have too. Maybe all of creation has lived in the darkness of our sin for so long that now the darkness feels more like home than the light.

While that may not always be true, I know it can be. I’ve witnessed relationships that have been in conflict for so long that no one can even remember what the fight was about. Yet when you suggest the ministry of reconciliation, both parties quickly jump to turn out the light. The same can be said for drug use, violence, jealousy and greed. When we live in the darkness of our sin long enough, we become comfortable in it. We even make the mistake of thinking we are most comfortable in it. So when God shines his light into our darkness, we’d rather kill the switch than kill the sin.

But we have to remember, God isn’t trying to hurt us with the light. God is longing to help us. And the darkness, while temporarily comforting, leads to death. But the light, while temporarily blinding, leads to life.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and that light has come to shine into our dark places. May we receive it remembering our eyes weren’t always used to the dark. We let them get that way with time and practice. Perhaps it’s time to get practice getting used to the light instead.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.