Were you out watching on the night of Sunday 16th July? That was the night of the longest total eclipse of the moon since 1859.
As we watched, that bright full disc in the night sky became like a dimly-lit three-dimensional ball as it began to fall into the shadow of the earth. The eclipse lasted 1 hour and 47 minutes. According to NASA's Fred Espenak, such a long eclipse won't happen for over 1000 years. So, if you saw it, you were watching a bit of history!
However, a confession - we didn't even wait to see it at its darkest - went to bed at 11.30! The keen ones who stayed up till midnight will have to tell us all about that!
But all this led me to reflect on something we find in the first chapter of Genesis - "God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and lesser light to govern the night" (Gen. 1.16).
Although the Sun and Moon look about the same size, we know that the Sun is actually about 400 times the diameter of the Moon and about 400 times further from the Earth. Moonlight is reflected sunlight. We have the impression that the Moon exists in the darkness of space. In one way that's true. Yet the Moon basks in sunlight - except at those times when it is eclipsed by the shadow of the Earth.
On one occasion Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8.12).
In the Sermon on the Mount, we hear him say, "You are the light of the world... let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Mt. 5.14a,16).
Two lights - a greater light and a lesser light. The lesser light basks in the light of the (infinitely) greater light. It bears witness to the existence of the greater light. Its light is a reflection of the greater light into the world in darkness.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world..." and "You are the light of the world-" The greater light and the lesser lights. His promise is that we will never walk (that means, live our lives) in darkness, but will have the light of life. Our "light" can never be eclipsed because it is his light shining on us.
There are many "dark" things in the world about us, but we don't live in the darkness - we live in his light. He calls us to shine his light into the darkness of our world. Others will see our "good deeds" -- the good results of Christ's light in our lives. They will praise our Father in heaven - drawn into his light so that they too can become lights in the world.
We used to sing, "Jesus bids us shine with a clear pure light... you in your small corner and I in mine." In which "small corner" does Jesus bid you shine his light? What areas of darkness can your "light" help to dispel?
© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Link, August 2000