When I was a boy my father came here to Nashville and bought some army surplus from World War II. He came home with a tent and hammocks, and some binoculars (which I still have). And he bought a couple of jeeps (which, alas, I don’t). They were painted army green and had been in used in Europe. I remember the headlights were painted over; they were painted black. I couldn’t figure out how they could do their work when they had been blacked out like that. As a boy I puzzled and puzzled over how those headlights could work, being coated with black paint. But of course, now I know. The army knew that on a dark night even a tiny speck of light can be seen for miles. Enemy aircraft—the German Luftwaffe—were patrolling overhead looking for targets to bomb; so not a flicker of light could show, not the glow of a cigarette, certainly not the headlight of a jeep.
It’s impossible for light not to shine, but the light can be covered. It can be concealed. But when it is uncovered, when it is unconcealed, even a small spark of light can go a long, long way. They used to tell soldiers in basic training that the light from a cigarette could easily been seen by the naked eye a mile away. They were told that the person smoking the cigarette would be the first one shot by a sniper because the marksman would tell by the glow of the cigarette just where his mouth and head were. Sailors were told that from the deck of a ship, the glow of a match or a cigarette across open water could endanger the entire vessel and its crew.
As Christians we use this fact to our advantage. The night around us may be dark. The moral condition may be blackened. But even a little light can direct a person to the truth.
Our Lord’s point in Matthew 5:14-16 was: Don’t paint over your headlights. Don’t blackout the windows on your city on a hill. Don’t hide your candle under a bushel basket. Don’t hide the fact that you are a Christian. Let your Beatitudinal qualities be on constant display. It’s not just a matter of our words and our verbal witness. It’s a matter of having a set of distinctive attitudes and set of behaviors, of our good works. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
When our light shines through our words, deeds, and actions—even if it’s a small flicker in a dark night, it will make a difference.
[For my entire sermon on this subject, click here].