Nothing to Fear

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.” John 1:5

Mammaw and Pappaw built the old Ellis house in the early part of the last century. It was the house Dad was born in, right there in the dining room. Ellis’s had lived there for many years. It was a rambling two-story house on Avalon Park, a keyhole street with about ten families who knew each other well.

When the Ellis family returned to Lexington in 1962, we moved into that house. Pappaw had died a few years earlier, and Dad had gotten very sick, so it seemed natural to come back home. I was four years old at the time and thought we were moving to the greatest place in the world. We had trees and overgrown bushes to play in, a green apple tree to provide ammunition for ambushing an unsuspecting sibling, a basement to explore, and great stories about the other Ellis’s that had lived there over the years.

I loved that old house . . . in the daylight. When the sun went down and I went to bed, however, that old house was filled with sinister shadows. Every innocent creak and groan was the sound of something out to get me. No adult could understand. My parents certainly didn’t understand. “Go to bed. There’s nothing up there to be afraid of.” Of course there’s nothing for them to be afraid of! They slept in the same room together. And besides, monsters don’t eat adults. They want a tender meal! So with my death sentence I would trudge upstairs.

Most kids believe that monsters are under the bed. I knew better. They were in the closet. The nightlight helped keep them at bay, but whenever I knew they were about to come out and mount a charge I would run for my life across the hallway to my sleeping older brother. “Ken? I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?” He would mumble, scoot over, and with my invincible guardian at my side I fell asleep.

If you’re too old to remember, or somehow the monsters missed your house, then you really cannot understand what it is like to be a little boy, wide-eyed and afraid in the middle of the night with nothing but a stuffed animal and a night light to ward off your fears, waiting for the safety of sunrise. And in the bright morning you can even convince yourself that there really was no problem. Mom was right. You don’t need to be afraid. Everything really is all right. At least until sunset!

We’re all grown now. I sleep with no lights on. The darker the better. The darkness at night no longer bothers me. It doesn’t bother you either does it? No, it’s the darkness when you wake up that really bothers you. Fears or jealousies or rejections or anxieties or insecurities or disappointments or sin now darken your life. You wait in the darkness and wonder if the sun will rise again.

One of the great themes of Advent is the arrival of the Light. John loved this word and was particularly moved by this image of the Incarnation. He wrote, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

And it never will.

John used an interesting pair of verb tenses to underscore an important truth. The verb for shine is present tense, indicating an ongoing action. Jesus, the Light, continues to shine, always. The aorist tense of the verb for overcome, however, indicates that darkness gave its best shot. It was and is defeated. The war is won though battles remain. Light wins. The Light in You ensures your victory

Go ahead and name the problem that darkens your life. You fear it. It may be truly great and terrible. But now take it to the Light. The Light shining in your life because of the presence of Christ is an eternal dawn. He dispels all darkness. Slowly but inexorably the Light moves across the darkness, bringing a new day to an old night.

Truly you have nothing to fear. The one constant in the universe is God’s love for you, and His desire to bring more of His Light to you. Christmas is almost here. Only a few days left. But the Light is growing. Can you see it? You have nothing to fear.

Grace and Merry Christmas,

Dr. Terry Ellis

December 20, 2010