Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr. first uttered these words in a sermon entitled "Love Your Enemies." That sermon was delivered on Christmas Day, 1957, at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
These words are as true and appropriate to our time as they were to that congregation over six decades ago. They are certainly words that Christians can, and should, live by as we enter 2021.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that!
It is also crucial to understand that we now filter MLKs words through the Civil Rights Movement that he helped lead, and that he died for. These words certainly formed the backbone of his nonviolent protest strategy.
But as important as his civil rights work was, we must remember that this sermon was preached by a 27 year old Baptist minister, who had been called to the pulpit of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church just two years earlier. This was his Christmas sermon to his flock.
Though born in the crucible of the emerging social unrest that would soon explode into the Civil Rights Movement, his early ministry was just that, Christian ministry. His sermon spoke not only to the effects of racism, but also to life in general, to the darkness we all experience from time to time--the darkness of fear, of addiction, of the lack of loving kindness, the lack of financial security, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one. He was preaching about fear as well as hate, and the power of love to overcome any and all darkness.
Happy New Year
John 1: 1-9: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
On January 6, I was planning to compose my "Happy New Year" blog for the Messenger when I arrived home from my weekly office hours and a church meeting. But before I got to my home office, I turned on the television. The blog immediately faded from my mind as I witnessed darkness.
Just this past Saturday when some of us gathered to undecorate the Sanctuary, I was reminded by one of you that I had not written a New Year's blog. yet. I had not even thought of blogging since January 6th!
As you can imagine, this blog on January 18 is a different New Year's message than it probably would have been if I had ignored the world that Wednesday afternoon in early January, 2021. But ironically, or is it, providentially, this message has the same theme as I had planned for the earlier version.
We are called by God, as Children of God, to bring light to the world. It is our responsibility and our blessing. This is a message not only as we grapple with national and even global concerns. It is, maybe even more importantly, a message about everyday life.
Wherever you encounter darkness, try to respond to it with light, with love., for as we are reminded on MLK Day, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that"!
Please accept this poem as a prayer for light in the midst of our everyday darkness -- a prayer that those we love will rekindle trust that love will keep us safe.
And So We Sleep
Falling asleep, I touch the night
As consciousness creeps out of sight
Replaced by dreams out of control
To mock the mind and time they stole
To fill the gaps left by the stress
Of days filled with ungodly mess
Responsibility gone mad
And joy and hopes and dreams turned sad
Yet consciousness of love retains
Sweet melodies of life’s refrain
Of joy and hope and dreams, a song
To sing with those who came along And so, these melodies of life
Become the antidote to strife
They are the angel choir we hear
When loved-ones whisper in our ear
And spark a dream, or calm a fear
Or make us laugh, or shed a tear
When beauty is too much to bear
Our souls cry out, a song to share
And one of those who came along
Will offer us their inmost song
Rekindling trust that love will keep
Us safe tonight, and so we sleep
First appeared in The Write Launch, Issue 37 (June 2020).
Click here to read this and other of my poems published in The Write Launch.
Happy New Year!