It is Saturday afternoon. Crowds are waiting, eyes are anticipating, hearts are eager to receive the light or “the Holy Fire” as it has been traditionally called. We are in a place no other than the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. You can barely find a room for one’s feet to step in. In fact, people seem to be on top of one another, priests, clergy men, believers, locals, tourists and anyone else you can think of. This is no small event: the light is soon going to emerge from the tomb of Jesus.
Traditionally, this is what is thought to happen every year; a miracle takes place, Holy fire comes forth from the tomb in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus. Many people hold strong opinions about this happening; they firmly believe in their heart of hearts that a miracle occurs every year and the light and fire come out of nowhere as divine proof and reminder that the Lord is risen. Others are more skeptical and allege it is just due to a mischievous human hand!
This is no small event: the light is soon going to emerge from the tomb of Jesus.
Now, nothing is impossible for God. He who said “Let there be light” where there was only darkness at the very beginning, the same God who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not”(Romans 4: 17) can still speak anything into existence, even a fire out of the tomb. However, this debate is not the point of this blog post. The point is, whether we have truly experienced this Light in our lives.
What happens to this Holy Fire after it escapes from the tomb and the Holy Sepulchre church? Well, the light is then carried to Bethlehem and other neighbouring towns. Christians emerge from their homes to “receive the light”; with scouts, parades, colourful balloons, people in fancy dress, and there is singing and dancing everywhere. It is a festive atmosphere of joy. Yet, watching these people, I wonder: “Why are they happy? Do they really realise what this light signifies?” Do we, as Palestinian Christians in this region, really know what it means to experience and witness the light of the risen Lord in our lives?
And here I think about Saul of Tarsus. I think about this man who truly experienced the transforming Light of Christ on the way to Damascus. The result was a completely changed life, vision and mission. This person turned from a persecutor of the Nazarenes to a Jesus- hero: an apostle to the nations. Anyone who has seen, experienced, and watched the Light should not settle for less!
This Saturday that precedes Easter Sunday, is known in our area as “Sabt Innour– the Saturday of Light”. In a place where darkness seems determined to penetrate, the Light of Christ is the only thing that can shatter any darkness: “The people walking in darkness have seen a Great Light, on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) After all, didn’t Jesus say we are “the Light of the world”?
I am prompted to ask about the ways in which we are reflecting the Light of Christ in our lives. Are there still dark areas where we haven’t allowed the Light to shine? It is easy to get swept away with the euphoria of an event and forget about the essence of what we ought to be. Instead, let’s examine ourselves, not only through this period of Easter but every day, so that we may be true carriers of the Light God wants to shine into each person’s life.
I grew up listening to and singing this old song: “Shine Jesus shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory, Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire”. Will you pray this for Bethlehem today? Will you pray that the land that first witnessed the light will truly “blaze” for the Lord and His Glory?
Happy Easter! The Lord of Light is risen.