I’ve been waking early in these Lenten days. Not by choice, I might add. There is a small boy who sleeps in my room and wakes with the birds who wake with the dawn. We have heavy curtains on the window, but you can always tell when the first light has broken. You can see. Shadows have colour. Open eyes shine just a little, then a lot. My Plum wakes noisily and calls out to let me know the night is over. He crows. My daughter wasn’t like this. She would wake gently into herself, and we would hear her singing baby sounds softly in her crib. She was happy by herself when she woke. Plum wants me to be with him when the light dawns.
Dawn is indisputable. You can put your face in the pillow, but dawn happens regardless. You can’t argue the light’s return.
This week’s lectionary reading from John echoes with the same senselessness. Jesus gives a blind man sight. Questions are unnecessary. How isn’t quite the point. There is light now.
Still, those around him want to know so they keep asking questions. But what more can he say? He was blind. Jesus gave him his sight and now, for the first time, he can see. He can give no other answer, and yet they keep asking.
There is so much contained in the arguing here. If this passage from John was the only story of Jesus’ social context, it would be enough. If we had no other description of Jesus’ healings or the theological debates about his authority, no other crowded discussions about law and God and Jesus’ role, I think we would have enough here with this slim section of John. Because here, we have everything.
The healed and the witnesses. The doubters and the worriers. Tradition and threat, Sabbath rest and holy healing. Identity and history. All our worries, our concerns and pragmatisms trying to make sense of wonder and grace, all our fear. And at the centre, Jesus as the light of the world.
That is the gospel from John’s perspective. Jesus is the light. Light brings forth life. Amen.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. John 1:3-5
Again and again, John shows us Jesus as the light in the darkness, the light calling forth life. All life springs from light. In a good year, March is the perfect illustration. Light warms the soil and calls seeds to push forth. Buds swell in the light, and colour with promise. Light lengthens and the sap runs.
Light is a comfort and a calling for all who know darkness. And darkness is real, isn’t it? We know the darknesses of grief and loneliness. Darkened understanding and questions, darkened horizons. We can be afraid of the dark. There is something of the blind man in all of us. We, too, sit by the road unable to see and in need of new life to get us on our feet.
One of the more beautiful names for Jesus in the New Testament comes early in the gospel of Luke, when Zechariah sings out this prophecy for his son, John, who will baptise Christ:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the Dayspring from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
Jesus is the Dayspring. The coming dawn. The sunrise and the light of the world. When Zechariah prophesied, perhaps he sang of a new historical moment ahead, the dawn of a different era. BC to AD. A new hope for Israel and the Roman Empire and the whole emerging world.
We often sing this image in Advent. Oh come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine Advent here. In the depths of winter as we wait to celebrate the incarnation of Christ, we imagine Jesus as a new light born in darkness. But this year I’d like to claim the image for Lent. The Risen Christ is the dawn, the dayspring, giving sight to the blind, calling us to wake up into new life. Christ is the dawn that calls us away from the darkness of death. The dawn that brings us into new beginnings.
And in that Easter light of dawn, we will see.
The shadows will have colour.
Eyes will open and start to shine.
Let’s wait for the dawn together.
In these Lenten days, let’s wait and wonder and when we catch the first glimpse of light through the curtains or hear the first bird’s first Easter song, let’s crow to each other with loud hallelujahs and be together as the sun comes up.