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Let The Lower Lights Be Burning

Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother!
Some poor sailor, tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

As a ship approaches a harbor, there is always a safe channel through which it can enter the shallower waters without facing any hazard or danger. If the ship sails into the bay using some other navigational directions or angles, it may hit against some unforeseen rocks or coral reefs. While the upper light of the lighthouse marks the location of the harbor in the night, it alone does not provide any information about the direction to reach the harbor safely.

Another light is needed. This lower light of the lighthouse is used to guide the ship safely through the narrow channel. By lining up the upper light and the lower light from the lighthouse, the approaching ship can find a safe entrance into the harbor. But there are also other lower lights along the shore. They are the little lights shining out from the windows of the houses nearby, and also the lights at the harbor. Besides illumining the water line near the lighthouse, they also expose the dangers and hazards in the vicinity.

This famous hymn "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning" was written more than a century ago. Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876) penned it while he was living in Chicago. He was inspired by a sermon preached by Dwight L. Moody. In that sermon, the preacher shared about a ship that was trying to find Cleveland Harbor in the midst of a storm at night. The waves were rolling and roaring. Not a single star could be sighted that cloudy night.

The ship was battling against the angry billows as the captain journeyed through the darkness. He was seeking for a signal light by which he could guide his vessel into safety. He finally spotted the upper light from a lighthouse.

As he drew near, he shouted to the lighthouse keeper, "Is this Cleveland?" The lighthouse keeper shouted back, "Quite true, sir." The captain asked, "Where are the lower lights?" The lighthouse keeper said, "They have gone out. Can you make the harbor?" The captain replied, "We must, or we will perish!"

With those departing words, the brave captain sailed his ship into the harbor, passing the lighthouse. But the ship missed the channel, and dashed against the rocks. It was a terrible tragedy. Many people were killed that dark night.

At the conclusion of the sermon, D.L. Moody gave this wake-up call to an attentive audience, "Brothers and sisters, the Master will take care of the lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning."

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said:

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

It is often so easy to openly declare that we are the light of the world. But to be the light in our own homes, workplaces and neighbourhood could be a different matter altogether. Jesus desires that we will give light to all who are in the house. Our light is to be shone before men who are around us, and not to a people far away from us. However, if the LORD does send us to some remote far corners of the earth, it is there and then that we will shine His light to our new neighbours!

Everyone wants to be the upper light. High and mighty, to be admired and adored by the world, razzling and dazzling others. The world has crept into the Church instead of the Church influencing and impacting the world. Instead of sinners and harlots becoming saints and Christians, some of us have gone in the opposite direction.

We have run the race, thinking we have almost won,
And then find that we have only begun.
We walk this journey, thinking we are far from there,
And suddenly realize that we are very near.

The first will be last, and the last will be first! To be a lower light requires us to be humble before God and man. It requires us to be a servant of all - loving God and loving man, serving God and serving man. It requires us to put off ourselves, and to put on Christ! It is a journey we must travel as we shine His light to our neighbours. Always remembering to turn on our lights so that others will find the Way to our Father in heaven!

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told this parable:

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'

Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'

But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!'

But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

In this hymn, our LORD Jesus Christ is the Upper Light of the Lighthouse, calling the sinners to come and land safely on His shore of salvation. We are entrusted to the keeping of the lower lights in our own houses. It is therefore our responsibility to keep our lights constantly shining so that others struggling out there in the stormy seas and tsunamis of life may evade the dangers, and be brought safely into His harbor of love, joy, peace, faith and hope.

May our neighbours see the grace and glory, radiating from the true beauty of the Bride of Christ, sharing and caring for the people around her in times of troubles and needs.

Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Written On:
19 January 2005