Visitors are surrounded by a million lights arranged in unique locations and often accompanied by holiday music. This year, as I stood taking it all in, I was struck at the power of light and how it is a metaphor for so many things. For example, light illuminates what was once dark or hidden and thus becomes a metaphor for truth as in “I have seen the light.” It is a metaphor for goodness as in light overcomes darkness, meaning good over evil. It can represent someone who brings joy and happiness, such as when we refer to someone as “the light of my life.”
Though light is scientifically complicated electromagnetic radiation containing both waves and particles, it is nevertheless something we uniquely understand as a reality. Poets and scribes have used it for centuries to make their point.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we will need no other light.”
William Shakespeare wrote, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Light has been used in Scripture to describe the ultimate reality. John describes God as light and exhorts his readers to walk in the light. Jesus said, “I am the light.” Matthew (as translated by Clarence Jordan) writes:
“Ya’ll are the world’s light; you are a city on a hill that cannot be hid. Have you ever heard of anybody turning on a light and then covering it up? Don’t you fix it so that it will light up the whole room? Well then, since you are God’s light which he has turned on, go ahead and shine so clearly that when your conduct is observed it will plainly be the work of your spiritual father.”
A couple of years ago MBU engaged a marketing firm to help us develop a brand. A part of that assignment was to come up with a short catchphrase that caught the essence of what we were about. Through the years I have had mostly bad experiences with those things and as a result I was very skeptical. However, when the consultants unveiled “Shine On,” I liked it immediately. I connect with that slogan on a deep level precisely because of the symbolism, properties, and metaphorical possibilities of light. It dispels darkness. It contrasts knowledge and darkness, good and evil. It is the only sure way to overcome darkness. It serves as a guide just as people can become guiding lights. Another property is that you do not kindle your own light, but you rather reflect light back to others in the way you treat them.
During this season of light we would do well to remember the words of Michael Strassfeld who wrote:
“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”
At MBU we strive to leave a legacy of light as we “Shine On.”