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  “He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.” (John 1:7)

Though Thomas Edison is usually credited with the invention of the light bulb, the famous American inventor wasn’t the only one who contributed to the development of this revolutionary technology. The first incandescent lamp had been produced 40 years earlier, but no inventor had been able to come up with a practical design until Edison embraced the challenge in the late 1870s. After countless tests, he developed a high-resistance carbon-thread filament that burned steadily for hours and an electric generator sophisticated enough to power a large lighting configuration. In 1878, Edison began working on a system of electrical illumination which he hoped could compete with gas and oil-based lighting. It was during this time that he said: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” Edison made the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb on December 31, 1879, in Menlo Park, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company ran special trains to Menlo Park on the day of the demonstration in response to public enthusiasm over the event. Today, lighting choices have expanded, and we have a variety of light bulb choices.

Edison would no doubt be amazed at the public displays of lights these days. Nothing highlights this more profoundly than ‘The Great Christmas Light Fights’ which debuted in 2013 as an American reality competition show. It features a series of families or groups who create elaborate Christmas light exhibitions for monetary prizes. In many American towns, outside light displays are fairly common during the holidays. In my own neighborhood, for instance, most of the homes on our block had some kind of exterior decorations this year. That is, except for one home owner, who continued to display their Halloween decorations which had been placed months before. While I fully understand that not everyone celebrates Christmas or might not be capable of providing a seasonal display – what appeared in the window of this home in my neighborhood was just downright creepy. Written in large letters were these words – Help! DO NOT ENTER.” Maybe these folks are non-believers, or perhaps they have a different understanding of Christmas than me, but I found the lingering words from the presumed ‘ghosts of Halloween past’ to be a little bit too dark for the rejoicing of a new light who came into the world at Christmas (John 1:9).

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). The fact that God is light sets up a natural contrast with darkness. Those who know God understand it is His plan that believers shine forth His light, striving to be more like Christ every day. The Apostle Paul said: “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). To walk in the light means to know God, understand the truth, and live in righteousness. Believers in Christ must confess any darkness within themselves and allow God to shine His light through them. Norman Vincent Peale once shared a story about Thomas Edison: “I knew his widow, and one day when I was in her home, I said to her, ‘Tell me about your husband. What sort of mind did he really have?’ “She said, ‘Exactitude was the mark of my husband’s mind. He was not sentimental. He had to know something for sure before he would say it or record it. It had to be proven.’ Then she told me that when her husband was dying, he could barely speak. His doctor, who was also a family friend, noticed that the great inventor was trying to say something. He leaned close and heard Edison whisper, ‘It’s very beautiful over there.’ Those were his last words.” Edison had seen the One True Light. Hopefully my neighbors someday will as well.

REFLECTION: In scripture, it is written: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  How can we carefully use the knowledge of our heart to let the light of God shine forth in us and bring others to Christ? What changes will you make in your life so that you can be an effective witness for Christ in the new year?



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