The theme of darkness and light occurs several times in the gospel according to John, including today's gospel reading (John. 3.14-21). We live of course in a very different world. We have the intense light of halogen lamps. In Jesus' day they had the guttering light of an oil lamp. And yet, not so much has changed. All it takes is a power cut for us to feel at a loss. We blunder around in rooms that suddenly seem strange and unfamiliar.
Life sometimes has the same effect. It is possible for us to find ourselves completely disorientated, bewildered, not knowing where to turn. It is like the light suddenly disappearing. Sometimes this happens because of our own faults and frailties. Sometimes it happens because of others who behave badly. However it happens, we need help. Above all, we need light to show us the way.
To be a Christian does not mean that you will never lose the way, or, as they say today, 'lose the plot'. It does mean that you will have a light, a resource, a strength within you which is there precisely when we need it most. It is there because we can turn to Christ and ask that his light may shine within us and guide us to the right way. At every infant baptism, the parents are given a candle with the words, 'Receive the light of Christ', as a reminder that Christ is to be the shining light in their child's life. Every Easter Vigil we begin the service by lighting a Paschal Candle and singing, 'Christ the Light'. We have a very strong sense of Christ as the light who shows us the way, who banishes darkness and all the fears that go with it.
Of course, turning the light on our innermost selves will not always be a comfortable process. But Christ the light is a light of love, who shines not just light upon us but also the warmth of divine compassion. If you doubt this, then have a look at the second reading (Eph. 2.4-10) The letter-writer bubbles with joy as he writes: 'We are God's work of art' (RSV: 'We are God's worksmanship'.) God breathes over us, a loving divine artist, rejoicing in his creation. More than this: the divine artist is reflected in his work. Like an artist or a craftsman, God gives of himself as he creates. We trace God's handiwork deep within us, above all in our ability to love.