Let There Be Light

Genesis 1 commentary

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:1-4)

Light is indeed good as we are reminded in the opening days of March that we will not be held forever frozen in the cold, dark abyss of winter. Around the 7th day of March each year, it begins to dawn on us that Daylight Savings time is just a wisp of wind around the corner and that the extra light will do us “good.” Good because it helps to bring us out of winter’s hibernating stupor and good because it reassures us that there is order in the universe – that we can find consistency and dependability in the rhythmic coming and going of seasons.

Indeed, the extra light of spring can be a welcome reprieve, bringing the goodness of beauty found in the cheerful colors of spring’s flowers, particularly at a time when it is so easy to become discouraged by the anarchy, disorder and turmoil that seem to surround us. One can find daily commentaries about the chaotic state of the world confirming the experience felt by many: that we are living in a hard, dark, disturbing and confusing time. As Geoffrey Norman notes in his article, “The United States of Dogs”, from the February 27 issue of The Weekly Standard: “It is a hard world and getting harder.”

As we step out of the darkness of winter this year into the promising light of spring, it would be good to recognize that it is in the messiness and chaos of life, whether it be in our personal lives or in the political vicissitudes of our nation and our world, that opportunity exists. Opportunity, not as powerless agents of a predetermined world, but as free agents capable of moving through the darkness and through the difficulties into a more excellent way of being. As theologian W. Sibley Towner writes: “If there were no freedom in this creation, no touches of disorder, no open ends, then moral choice, creativity, and excellence could not arise.”

In fact, the term “the deep” from Genesis 1:2 (“and darkness covered the face of the deep…”) comes from the Hebrew word “Tehôm,” signifying confusion and disturbance. Typically applied to the ocean to convey the restless motion of its waves, it is used here to describe the “chaos as a surging mass of shapeless matter.” It continues: “In the Babylonian legend, Tiàmet, the Hebrew tehôm, is represented as overcome by Merodach, who out of the primaeval anarchy brings order and beauty.”

It is in the darkness of our many struggles and challenges that our need for light arises. And it is light that illuminates our path and brings us to order and beauty.

It is out of the darkness that light was born. It is out of the darkness that we must come.

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