The other night I looked out the window and saw the most amazing bluish-white light shining on the snow, illuminating the whole yard in a beautiful, silvery iridescence. For a moment, I wondered if the neighbors had gotten some snazzy new super-bright LED fixture to light up their yard. It seemed completely conceivable, for a second, that such a modern bulb was the source of this new illumination. It was bright enough that one could walk around and do tasks confidently outside at night.
Then I realized it was moonlight. Only the moon would cast those amazing, sharp shadows of the leafless tree branches stretching across the white blanket of snow, like reaching arms. Only the moon had that distinctive silvery luminescence, so soft and yet so clear. Only the moon would illuminate all of the snow so evenly and with such a lovely pearly blue-white glow. Looking up in the sky, I saw that the moon was indeed full and very huge, and it was completely unobstructed by clouds. The light shining from it was uncannily brilliant, and reflecting off the smooth snow it lit up the whole neighborhood in cool bright silver. The effect was breathtaking.
The moon is not a source of radiance in and of itself. When we see moonlight, it is the sun’s light reflecting off the surface of the moon that we are seeing. And the moonlight glowing off the snow is a reflection of a reflection. Likewise, any light that we may give off is a reflection – or a refraction, perhaps – of God’s light. Whether it is a reflection of God’s light shining upon us, or God’s glory radiating through us, or the light of Christ illuminating from within, the source is with the Holy One. At first, we may not like to think of ourselves as merely reflections of God’s light. Self-centered creatures that we are, it may be tempting to think that we are the source of our own radiance, that we can illuminate the darkness within and around us by shining with our own self-made brilliance. Being merely a reflection seems so second-rate, so mediocre.
It is humbling, and sometimes hard, to let go of my delusions of self-made glory, but it is also comforting and freeing to realize that my light is God’s light shining upon and through me. It means that this light cannot be destroyed, even when I fail to be brilliant, or even when I struggle with very real darkness. With God as the source of my light, I don’t need to worry about burning out, about where the ability and strength to shine brightly will come from. And if I think about the reflected light of the moon as I beheld it upon the snow the other night, then the idea of being “merely” reflected light becomes wonderful, even awe-inspiring. Moonlight is distinctively gorgeous, a particular kind of iridescence that is truly beautiful to behold. It cannot be reproduced, even by expert lighting designers. The moon’s radiance can light up the night with surprising brightness, but even so it always retains a spellbinding, other-worldly quality. In the silvery light of the moon, the snowdrifts were transformed from plain, stark icy whiteness into sweeps of magical iridescence, glowing with indescribable, mysterious beauty. The moonlight reflecting off the snow illuminated the night with enough brilliance to transform it from a place of darkness and terror into a place of astonishing beauty. All because of a reflection of reflected light. Maybe this reflected light thing isn’t so second-rate or mediocre after all. May we all reflect God’s light in such a way.