As any homeowner out there knows, maintaining the foundation of your home ought to be a priority. Keeping an eye on what’s going on in your crawlspace can help you avoid some pretty expensive repairs. You want to make sure water isn’t pooling anywhere, and that termites or rodents haven’t moved in. The problem, of course, is that no one really wants to go into their crawlspace, and so you put it off until, well, you can’t put it off any longer. I encountered one such occasion recently.

My wife is the rector at Christ Church in Little Rock, and we host the annual staff and vestry Christmas party, when 40 to 50 people bring their good cheer into our home and add their collective weight onto our 100-year-old hardwood floors. I had noticed some worsening soft spots over the past several years, and the last thing you want at a Christmas party is for a guest to break through into your crawlspace. So, I decided to haul some cinderblocks under the house and do some shoring up, just in case.

Getting into my crawlspace is a bit of an ordeal. For one, there’s only about 18 inches of clearance, hence the name. It’s dirty, and occasionally muddy too, so I had to don one of the face masks I had left over from COVID, pull on my overalls, strap on a headlamp, and screw up my courage. Interestingly, in my experience of crawlspace exploration, I have noticed that the most difficult part tends to be that initial entry–the moment when you pass the threshold from light to dark, when you leave the brightly lit world behind and enter into basement blackness.

I’m always a little anxious when I turn on the headlamp for the first time and peer in. Who knows what monstrosities will be revealed when the beam of light passes over? There could be a slow plumbing leak rotting away the joists. Black mold could have taken root on the subfloor. An HVAC duct could have broken apart. For all I know, a giant rat could be poised to strike as soon as I get in far enough to prevent a quick retreat. I could be wounded, poisoned, out a lot of money for repairs, or all three!

Like I said, no one really wants to go into their crawlspace, because it means exposing things that would rather live in darkness. And once we’ve seen something that needs attention, we can’t ignore it anymore. I mean, we can, but then we’re just asking for problems later on. Light reveals, and it invites a response from us.

Today is the first Sunday in the season after the Epiphany. This is the season in the Church year when we welcome light coming into the world in the person of Jesus. “Because in the mystery of the Word made flesh,” states the prayer, “you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Just as the days are beginning to lengthen outside, light is dawning in our hearts as well. Light brings hope. Light brings warmth. It reveals God’s love for us and God’s very presence within us. Light is a gift, indeed.

The Light of Christ, though, does not discriminate in where it shines. It exposes those places where love exists in this world, and also those places where love is sorely needed. When we, followers of the Light, learn of need, we are invited to respond. Learning to see by the Light of Christ means opening our awareness to the world around us, growing in compassion for our neighbors, and striving to strengthen God’s kingdom.

It’s no mere coincidence that during this first Sunday of the Epiphany season we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism and also recall our own by reciting the Baptismal Covenant. Baptism is a Christian’s response to having witnessed the light and its transformative power in our lives and the lives of others. Again, light reveals, and it invites a response from us.

Upon discovering those who need to hear that they are loved by God beyond measure, we are asked, in the words of the Covenant: “Will you proclaim the Good News of God in Christ?” Witnessing the least, the lost, and the lonely, among us, we are asked: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons?” Recognizing the destruction that greed, ignorance, and violence can cause within the world, we are asked: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people?” And we respond: “I will with God’s help.”

If you’re willing to go with me just a bit further on my unconventional analogy this morning …. Making the difficult decision to venture into your crawlspace with a headlamp is akin to making the decision to follow Christ. Journeying into the darker places in this world, and especially the darker places in our own lives, is a daunting prospect, one we often shy away from. As Christians, we are meant to be light bearers, revealing what is hidden in darkness and then, with God’s help, do something about it.

You’ll be happy to know that no one fell through the floor at the Christmas party last month. The guests enjoyed their eggnog, finger foods, and conversation without an unexpected trip into the abyss. I’m not sure if my efforts under the house actually prevented such a disaster, but the trip into the crawlspace did afford me some peace of mind. As John’s gospel says, “A light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” My fears of plumbing problems and oversize rats were allayed, and my floor is a little sturdier. I will say, upon crawling back out into the light of day, I felt like I had been through something. In addition to sporting a few scrapes and a bruise or two, I felt more connected to my house, and somehow less afraid of its darker corners.

This world needs Christians–people who are willing to bear light in dark places and respond to what is revealed. I pray that the light in your hearts will grow during this season of Epiphany, bringing you warmth in the cold, illumination in the darkness, and the capacity to serve in love.

First Sunday after the Epiphany


My crawlspace.