By Rodney Marsh —
John tells us that all of creation “received its life” from God and God gave “light to everyone” with the gift of life (John 1:3,4). No exceptions – no time ,place or person in all creation has been, or will be, without the light of God. Darkness will never eliminate God’s light from our world.
There is parable of the light and life of God in the Thai cave rescue. In June 2018, twelve Thai Soccer boys became trapped in a dark, flooded cave for twelve days. Yet God’s light and life was with and within the boys and their with coach, Ekkapol Chantawong (Ek). It was God’s light and life that enabled Ek to show the boys a path through the crisis. After the death of his father, between the ages of ten and twenty, Ek had been a novice Buddhist monk. The mind training Ek received at the monastery was a vital source of his capacity to care for and encourage the boys during the dark days and nights of waiting for rescue. Ek’s fatherly guidance was the reason the boys’ situation did not descend into a “Lord of the Flies” scenario. God’s light within Ek enabled him to teach the boys to meditate and discover the light within them instead of allowing their minds to be trapped by fears prompted by their dire circumstances.
The “Wild Boars” boys and their coach reminds us that God’s light is always searching for incarnation in our darkness. We learn that just as God’s light found embodiment in Ek and the boys, it will find embodiment in you and in me in our darkest times. God’s light will enable us to communicate hope to others in our common darkness. John emphasised the embodied “light keeps shining” at all times and no darkness has been, or ever will be, able to extinguish God’s light of love while time a space endure.
However, Ek and the boys needed rescuing and to be rescued, they needed rescuers. The story of their rescue contains another analogy to coming of the light of Christ into our world. As John says of Jesus, “The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world.” and the light of rescue was coming for the boys. Like the shepherds on a hill long ago, a frightening light soon shattered the boys’ darkness. In oft repeated TV footage, we see the befuddled boys being blinded by the bright lights of the British divers who found them. It was different for the shepherds. Though the light shone on the shepherds they could see into the light. In modern campouts, mutually blinding LED head torches mean we see neither who is looking at us nor who we are looking at. The boys were blinded by the light and, like the shepherds, needed to hear their rescuer’s words of reassurance.
The rescue of the boys was eventually led by Adelaide anaesthetist and expert cave diver, Dr “Harry” Harris. He was called to help by the British team who found the boys. They knew he was uniquely qualified and experienced to manage the risks of the rescue. Harry later admitted thinking, at the time, that the there was only a small possibility of getting all the boys out alive. Harry, along with his dive partner, Dr Craig Challen (a Perth vetinarian), spent over 70 hours in the cave. Harry was the last to emerge. However, “Speaking to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull via FaceTime, Dr Harris said the “big heroes” were the 12 children themselves, and the Thai Navy SEAL divers who looked after them in the cave.” (ABC news). What a beautiful story of the light of compassion reaching into our dark world. Harry paid a price, because shortly after he emerged from the cave he was informed his father had died whilst he was on the rescue mission.
Harry, like all of us, faced a choice to remain a dark person bringing no light into the darkness or to become light to others in a dark place. His boss said of him ,”Harry is a quiet and kind man who did not think twice about offering his support on this mission.” Just so Jesus, who “gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us.” Jesus, our Rescuer, “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). However, we can only show we are in the light by ourselves becoming an incarnation of light.
The message of Christmas is that light of God is always seeking embodiment. The light first found complete embodiment in Jesus. Now Jesus names his followers as ‘the light of the world’ and when Paul wished to speak about the commitment to love in relationships, he tells Jesus’ followers at Ephesus “you were darkness, but now … you are light” (Eph 5:8 lit). God’s eternal love and light is always seeking incarnation. Christmas always asks us a question “Are you light in the darkness or are you darkness in the darkness?”
Prayer: Lord, you tell me, I am light in you. Today and every day grant me the gift of the Spirit of your Son to be light in the dark places I will encounter. Amen.