The Light of the World

By Rev. Beth Long-Higgins  •  January 02, 2020

I am the light of the world!
You people come and follow me!
If you follow and love, you’ll learn the mystery
of what you were meant to do and be.

  1. When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone,

When the sages and the shepherds have found their way home, the work of Christmas is begun:

 

  1. To find the lost and lonely one, to heal the broken soul with love,

To feed the hungry children with warmth and good food, to feel the earth below, the sky above!

 

  1. To free the prisoner from all chains, to make the powerful care,

To rebuild the nations with strength of good will, to see all God’s children everywhere!

 

  1. To bring hope to every task you do, to dance at a baby’s new birth,

To make music in an old person’s heart, and sing to the colors of the earth!

Not Just for Christmas

This song has been worming it’s way through my head for weeks. Maybe it is my yearning for light in the midst of the darkness—and yes, that is both metaphorical and literal darkness at work in the world. Or perhaps it is the reminder that the work of Christmas only begins in this season. But it continues through the entire year. The fact this song continues to worm its way through my thoughts is also probably related to the fact that I made a lot of stars for Christmas gifts. A fact that I mention now since this is posted after the gifts are already unwrapped.

But in all honesty, this is one of my year-round favorite hymns. One of the true tests of my compatibility with each of the congregations that I had the privilege serving was their receptivity to the hand clapping that I must do. Four quick claps follow the first phrase of the chorus: I am the light of the world! And again, following the next phrase: You people come and follow me!, four more claps. It just emphasizes those statements and is a response of joy.

Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman is the author of the poem upon which this hymn is based. One of my favorite seminary classes was studying Thurman’s works. His words are as relevant today as when he penned them.

There are many in the world today who are lost, lonely and broken. We don’t have to go far to find children who are hungry and in need of warmth and food. And there are plenty of people who are held back by systems and structures that chain their lives to the grips of fear. And the promotion of the good fortunes of a few who live in privilege is in stark contrast to those who struggle to make ends meet.

And what does it mean to rebuild nations in the strength of goodwill? Does that even exist? Thurman reminds us that we are all children of God. I believe that if we would live with this concept in mind and believe it wholeheartedly, there would be fewer walls and fences in the world.

Bring Hope

So, how do we bring hope to every task we do? Could this be our new year’s resolution? What would this look like?

As we enter this new year, may we take hope from the final lines of the chorus:

If you follow and love, you’ll learn the mystery of what you were meant to do and be.

No matter what or where you are in the unfolding chapters of your life, may you follow the light and know sacred love. And may you learn the mystery of what you are meant to do and be in this season, in this new year, with each new day that is your gift for the living.

Happy New Year!

About the Author

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, musician, fiber artist and mother of two adult children.

View all articles by Rev. Beth Long-Higgins