Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16
Earlier this week, I was having a conversation with a group of eighth and ninth graders. We were talking about “letting your light shine.” I talked about how when we are baptized, we receive a candle and the charge: let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your heavenly Father. I told them one thing it means to “let your light shine” is all the ways that we use our gifts to show the world about God.
There are many ways we can show God’s love to the world. It includes praying for others or helping someone who needs it. This even includes, I told them, things like doing well in math class if God has given them a mind for numbers, playing sports if God has gifted them with a strong body, or singing in choir if God has given them a voice to sing. I asked them to share a way that they have let their light shine.
Frantically trying to rescue the conversation, I tried again. “What are some ways you’ve seen other people let their light shine?”
Suddenly the examples flooded out:
“Oh, my mom takes care of a lot of people and helps them whenever she can.”
“My friend did a great job at her track meet.”
“My teacher was there for me when I needed someone to talk to.”
“My dad works really hard at his job to help people.”
“That girl from Sweden is telling people about taking care of the environment.”
“Martin Luther King stood up for Black Rights.”
“My brother is a great team player.”
They even started pointing out ways their classmates had let their light shine– the very same teens who, minutes earlier, couldn’t name a single way their own light was shining. Everybody had a light shining bright with God’s love and power in their lives, but none of them could see it for themselves until somebody else pointed it out. It’s like they have oddly specific blinds that prevented them from seeing their own light while letting all the other light in.
I’m willing to bet that it’s adults as much as teenagers who struggle to put into words how we ourselves let God’s light shine through us. It seems kind of gutsy to come right out and say: “I let my light shine by doing such-and-such or by saying this-and-that.” Most of us have no trouble coming up with a dozen examples of someone else shining their light, though. Why is it so easy to see how other people are letting their light shine but so hard to see it in ourselves?
You might be thinking, “But what if I’m really not letting my light shine at all? Maybe I don’t have any light to shine.” I guarantee that you have a light to shine.
How can I say that? Well, dear reader, you were formed by God and filled with God’s Spirit in order to shine. Your light, the light of Jesus Christ, shines in you. Maybe you just need to open the blinds and shine.
Jesus Christ, light of the world, shine in me and through me so that I can be the light that shows the world your love. Let me see my light as well as the light around me so that I too may give praise to the Father. Amen.