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The Last Word
By the Rev. Peter Bredlau,
College Chaplain

Light in Darkness

 

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2)

In these days of limited sunlight, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, a festival of lights celebrating the rededication of the Temple, and a time when the oil lights lasted seven days past the expected one. Hindus around the world celebrate Diwali, a five day festival of lights during which candles are burned in the home and people look forward with hope. Christians, with the once-weekly lighting of the Advent candles wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Religious customs are not alone in using light images to brighten the spirit and look toward days ahead. The Swedish custom of St. Lucia is re-enacted each year in Egner Memorial Chapel. The legend says that Lucia, a young woman with a crown of candle lights, glides across the frozen lake Vannern, in central Sweden, and brightens the lives of those who are living in literal darkness at the top of the world.

At this time of year, when I step out of the Chapel and into the cold darkness of the night, the first thing that I see is lights, specifically, a lighted tree. This tree lives only a few steps from the entrance of the Chapel and is a gift of Harrison Moyer, Class of 1948. Each year our plant operations staff carefully decorates the tree with hundreds of white lights. A former U.S. President was known for his “thousand points of light” image, used to remind us of the many wonderful things that happen in our country because of the efforts of excellent people. The tree in front of the Chapel reminds me of the many points of light that illumine our campus each day.

We have a new college president, Randy Helm, and his energy and vision have already brightened the path for the College. We have a dedicated faculty who illumine the lives of their students and colleagues with their desire for knowledge and first-rate teaching. Deeply devoted staff people mow grass, plow snow, keep the power and water flowing, type letters, answer phones, and collaborate to make this College run as well as it does. Their lights burn brightly day and night, sometimes not easily seen at first glance, but definitely there, lights in the darkness.

There are our students, our brightest lights. Consider Drew, a senior. As a first-year student, Drew volunteered to help with our annual Jefferson Field Day, a program for local elementary school children. Drew filled the water coolers that day; not a glamorous job, but a necessary job on a hot day with hundreds of students. From water coolers Drew grew into coordinating the Jefferson School tutoring initiative. This year, Drew is the leader of all five of our Jefferson School projects, and will coordinate Field Day. Drew is a bright light – to the school children and our College. Valerie Lane, our director of community service, says “Working with students like Drew and watching them develop into civically responsible adults is one of the joys of my job. He is an amazing young man.”

Another light is Danielle. She arrived on our campus as a quiet student and struggled to find her place at Muhlenberg. Now a senior, Danielle has, through her class work and self-reflection, grown into an accomplished and effective campus activist. She has organized conferences, debates, and bus trips to marches in Washington, D.C., and is a respected leader on campus and in the Lehigh Valley. Danielle’s light shines brightly as a voice for peace and justice.

Another light is Sarah. A recent graduate, Sarah has stayed in the Lehigh Valley to work with the Crime Victims Council. She began this work as a student as she organized friends, faculty and staff, to shine a bright light on the need for progress and growth in gender relations. Sarah continues that mission with great passion as she serves those in our area who have been hurt and often have no voice. As a prevention education specialist, Sarah is a light of hope in many lives as an educator and advocate.

As a child, I learned a song, “This little light of mine,” which reminded me that each of us is a light; and that we should not hide that light, but instead let it shine for the good of the world. Each day at Muhlenberg, our whole community is encouraged, through class work and community outreach, to let their lights shine for the good of the world. As you ponder the darkness of these shortened days, consider how your light might shine for the good of your family and your community. If you need inspiration, visit your alma mater and see the lights in action.

 

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