Let Your Lite Shine Brightly
Did you ever have a Lite Brite toy as a child? They still make them and they even come in an online version. Do you remember how you would put colored pegs into the lit pegboard? A black paper marked with a pattern went on top and each peg went into the pattern one by one. The colored lights would soon jump out of the black background and reveal the beautiful picture that had just been created. Then you would turn the lights out in the room and see the picture glow.
What makes the Lite Brite work the way it does is the black paper. Black absorbs light and heat rather than reflecting it. If the pegs were placed on white paper, the light from behind would show through and the pegs would not stand out. But the black paper keeps the other light out and reveals only the light coming through the holes made by the pegs.
In the Gospel of Luke 2:29-32 we see that the true light is revealed not through designs in paper, but through the presence of the Lord Jesus on His presentation to the temple. Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the Temple as was customary at that time, and as we continue to do today in the 40-day blessing of babies. They were greeted by Symeon, a Jewish priest and prophet. The Holy Spirit had promised the elderly Symeon that he would not die until he met the Christ. When the baby Jesus was presented to him, Symeon responded with these words, "Lord let your servant depart in peace according to your word. For my eyes have seen the glory of Your salvation, which you have prepared before all people, a light of revelation to the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel."
Symeon knew that the prophecy had been fulfilled. This baby boy who had filled his soul with light would reveal God's light to all people, even the Gentiles (a name for those who are not Jewish). The Jews are believed to be chosen by God to prepare the way for Messiah. Symeon reveals to us through this prayer that this boy is the glory of God's salvation for the Glory of His people. He has seen the Messiah that he had been waiting for.
Christ said in the book of Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Candles in our Church are not used just to see in the dark, but they are a symbol of God's goodness that overcomes darkness and death. As Christians we have this light that Christ speaks of, because He said "I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Our light will show amongst those who have light, but it will shine most brightly amongst those who are in darkness. Sharing your light with friends does not mean having to say, "I am an Orthodox Christian, do you have the light of Christ? This may scare people and make them defensive. The best way to share your light is to let your example show how special your faith is. For example, when you come home from a great weekend retreat and you are very excited, let your friends know where you really went. Don't just say you were with your "Greek" friends. Let them know that you were with your church youth group and tell them everything that you did at the retreat. Ask them if they would like to come with you the next time.
When other people look at you and get to know you, little by little, the light of Christ that shines in your heart will show through. A pattern of light will develop through your words and actions and people will be drawn to it and to you. Your friends may not practice abstinence, for example, but they will respect your conviction when you do. When they struggle with it, you will be the one that they will come to in order to share their concerns. They will see your compassion, your conviction and your strength of faith and it will shine brightly. They will feel the love of Christ through you. It is this example which will be the light of revelation that St. Symeon spoke of.
As young people, your enthusiasm and excitement for things becomes contagious. If you want to share the light with others by visiting a homeless shelter, raising money for the Tsunami victims, or even inviting a youth group from another faith to your parish for an activity, just ask. People want to be where the action is. People want to give when other people are giving. No one likes being the only one to do something. People will get excited about sharing their faith because you are.
Each action of faith in your life is like putting another peg into the Lite Brite pattern. People will notice that there is something going on in the way you live your life. At first it may not look like anything or it may even confuse people a bit. However, soon enough, the glow of your faith will shine through the darkness of the world and reveal a beautiful design, the Cross of Salvation. Don't worry about people not seeing the pattern. They will. Your challenge is to make sure that the light always shines brightly in everything you do.
Vasie-Leigh Andriotis is Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Metropolis of Pittsburgh. She is a 1997 Graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and a 1993 Graduate of the University of the Pacific. Vasie-Leigh was married in April to Eugene Andriotis.