People peered out the windows in astonishment.
Everything seemed enveloped in pitch blackness.
No one had ever witnessed such a thing before.
It was twelve noon, May 19, 1780.
This was some sort of natural phenomenon – an abnormal darkness had descended upon all of the New England and parts of Canada. Historians believe it was due to a rare combination of smoke from forest fires and a thick fog.
The darkness that day was so great that candles were required from noon until midnight. Witnesses said that in some places it was so dark that persons could not read common print at midday in the open air.
The birds went silent and disappeared. An ominous hush fell over the land.
One observer wrote later:
“If every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.”
The fledgling thirteen colonies of America were in the fifth year of their monumental struggle for independence.
In Hartford, Connecticut the legislature was in session. Anxious word spread that it was the Day of Judgment and there were many fearful calls for adjournment.
But then Colonel Abraham Davenport rose to speak. Slowly and deliberately he stood up. The chamber fell to a respectful silence.
“Gentlemen,” Davenport said, “I am against an adjournment. The Day of Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”
And so they were. The Connecticut legislature finished its work. The American colonies, against all odds, won their freedom from Great Britain.
It was not the Day of Judgment. The world did not come to an end.
The darkness dispersed and at midnight the stars could be seen.
New England’s Dark Day was over.
Today, millions of Americans hold their collective breath as together we prepare to step across the threshold of a New Year. Hope is in the air; it’s in our hearts and minds; it stirs our souls.
This is a time when we want to be expectant. We want to embrace a brighter future.
We may look back upon this past year – with all its violence and war; its heartache and strife – and wonder what in the world is happening and what will the New Year bring.
It has been said that the optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds – and the pessimist fears that this is true.
I sometimes wonder if we Christians are too apocalyptic for our own good.
We’re just too down in the mouth about the future. We wallow in fear and catastrophe as if there were no God. Or as if he were an incompetent politician making it up as he goes along instead of reigning as the omnipotent Ruler of the universe.
This is very far from being the best of all possible worlds, that’s true, but God did make this world. He controls it, he has a plan for it and his purpose will never be thwarted – by anyone or anything.
And beyond this truth, stands another – grander far than mere mortal imagination can see.
The new heaven and the new earth God will create will be “the best of all possible worlds.”
That’s the future for all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
The end of this world will only be the beginning of a world without end.
If God’s so gloriously optimistic about our future, why shouldn’t you and I be perennially hopeful and exulting in joy about what he has planned for those who know him?
You and I have a choice.
We can curse this present darkness. Or we can choose to light a candle.
We can fear the future or we can embrace it. We can be a light or we can hide under a bushel. We can throw up our hands or we can make a difference.
Paul told the Ephesians that since they had the light of Christ within them by faith, they should “live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5: 8, NLT).
He told the Philippians that rather than complaining or arguing they should “live clean and innocent lives as children of God” (Philippians 2: 14-15, NLT).
They were to be, he wrote, like bright stars shining “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” – a world of spiritual and moral darkness (Philippians 2: 15, KJV).
You and I must be bright lights of hope and joy and love and decency – shining before our friends and neighbors; our colleagues and co-workers; our husbands, our wives and our children.
Let us resolve to do this in 2015.
This world may be nearing its end or it may not. Only God knows that. Only God knows the end from the beginning. If it is not the end of the world, there is no cause for alarm or concern. And if it is, then let us choose to be found doing our duty when Christ comes.
The world hasn’t ended – not yet.
Let candles be brought. Let them be lighted. And let them shine.
May God bless you and your family.