A light for the world
by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore the importance of lighthouses in the context of Jesus being called ‘a light for the world’.
Preparation and materials
- Have available a light of some sort, such as a torch, lamp or candle.
- Have available some images of lighthouses and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples could include:
- Beachy Head, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8aqms63
- Eddystone, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ycc7nsd8
- Bell Rock, available at: https://tinyurl.com/5ekr9cv6
- More information about the Bell Rock Lighthouse is available at: http://www.bellrock.org.uk/
- I wonder how many of you like to sleep with a light on in your room, or perhaps with the landing light on? Maybe you don’t mind in your own house, but if you are somewhere unfamiliar, you may feel differently.
- Switch on the torch or lamp, or light the candle.
Light can bring reassurance and comfort to us. It can show us what is out there, not visible because of the darkness. Light can banish our fears, but it can also serve as a warning.
- Through the years, many sailors have trusted small lights to keep them from danger and shipwreck.
Show the first two images of lighthouses.
- Ask the children if they have ever visited a lighthouse and what its function is. Ask the children to imagine what it would be like to live in a lighthouse.
- Show the image of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
This is the Bell Rock Lighthouse, the oldest rock lighthouse in the British Isles. For over 200 years, the Bell Rock Lighthouse has been sending out its beam to warn vessels of danger. It stands on a treacherous submerged reef almost 11 miles from the shore near Arbroath, which is near Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. Before the lighthouse was built, the Bell Rock had claimed countless vessels. Fear of the rocks was so strong among local sailors that it was said that even more disasters were caused by sailors trying to avoid the rock and grounding on different rocks.
Most lighthouses are situated on rocks or cliff heads right beside the coast, but the Bell Rock Lighthouse warns of a danger stretching far out to sea, so it had to be built quite a distance from land. It was a great feat of engineering that was undertaken by Robert Stevenson, founder of a great engineering dynasty. Stevenson designed and developed this lighthouse, and lived alongside his men on the wooden barrack they built on the rock so that he could cheer them on. The rock was not a comfortable place to live and the lighthouse was not an easy thing to build.
As one author put it, ‘To build a tower high enough to carry a warning light and stable enough to house three men to watch it, on a rock 11 miles from land, and buried under 16 feet of water twice every 24 hours in a sea much liable to storms, was not a task to be lightly undertaken.’ (R. W. Munro, Scottish Lighthouses, taken from the Bell Rock Lighthouse website)
The last lighthouse-keeper of the Bell Rock was a man called John Boath. He grew up in Dundee, where he worked in the jute mills. In 1960, he saw a programme on Blue Peter about lighthouses and decided that he’d like to give it a go. He and his wife moved out of a tiny attic in Dundee to a two-bedroomed cottage next to the lighthouse. John Boath says that the Bell Rock had a reputation as a lighthouse that could break even the toughest keepers. The men worked on a rota of four days on and four days off. To get on to it, they had to use a rope ladder from a boat. Inside, basic rooms were connected by ladders strapped to the walls. It was a tough life and many men resigned.
Most lighthouses are now automated, but they have to be checked monthly by retained lighthouse-keepers to make sure that the lights never go out.
- Few of us are out on the sea at night to appreciate these lighthouses, but all of us need light. As we heard before, light exposes what is there, brings reassurance and comfort, banishes our fears and can also act as a warning.
- Optional: it has recently been Christmastime, when many houses have been lit by bright lights and decorations. Many of us know the Christmas story, but fewer people know that 40 days after Jesus was born, his parents took him to the Temple in Jerusalem to say thank you to God for the birth of their baby.
On this particular day, an old man, Simeon, felt that he should go to the Temple, too. Simeon spent much time praying for his people. He had always had great faith that God was going to send a special light into the darkness of the world. Simeon was convinced that this special baby would enter the world before he died, but he was now an old man. When Simeon saw Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the Temple, he approached them. Then, something wonderful and unexpected happened. It was as though a light went on! Suddenly, Simeon knew that this baby was light that had come into the darkness. He took the baby in his arms and said some very special words over him. He called Jesus ‘a light for the world’.
Time for reflection
In the Bible, Jesus is described as ‘a light for the world’.
Look again at the image of the Bell Rock Lighthouse and consider the reassurance that this light has brought to so many sailors for over 200 years.
Now reflect upon the reassurance that Jesus, a light for the world, has brought to millions of people for over 2,000 years.
Thank you for people who took the time to build lighthouses to keep us safe at sea.
Thank you for people who still work at the lighthouses and look after them.
Thank you for sending Jesus as a light for the world.
Thank you that he can still light up the darkness, show us the way and keep us safe.
‘My lighthouse’ by Rend Collective, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reAlJKv7ptU
‘From the darkness came light’ (Come and Praise, 29)