On August 3, 1914 the then British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, spoke to the House of Commons with a heavy heart. But his argument was clear and decisive – Britain now had to go to war with Germany.
Still grieving about this weighty decision that evening, he looked up from his desk and, from his office window, he saw the gas lamps in St James’s Park being lit.
He said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
These prophetic words have been often quoted and remembered.
But they can only faintly describe the horrors of an awful war which changed the face of Europe and brought cruel death and massive destruction in so many countries. Britain’s armed forces alone lost nearly one million men.
The centenary of this date is now very close. An initiative has been taken by the Royal British Legion and others to do something specific to mark it, with special reference to Grey’s words.
They are asking people across Britain to turn off all their lights between 10.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. on August 4, and then to light only a single candle or small lamp as a token of remembrance of these dark days, which enveloped Europe for four years and still resonate with so many of us 100 years later.
It’s only when it’s dark that we realise just how much we need light.
Light brings life and beauty, freedom and activity.
Sunlight drives every natural process, ranging from the great global weather patterns down to the growth of every blade of grass and the function of every tiny living cell.
This life-sustaining sunlight was planned and given to us by our Creator God. He also provides another important light.
His Son, Jesus Christ, said: “I have come a light into the world, so that whoever believes in Me shall not remain in darkness” (John 12.46).
Without this light, we are in the dark. To give us the light we need, Christ Himself had to experience the darkness of the cross at Calvary.
Then it was even dark at midday. When He died there for our sins, His experience was darker still.
But three days later, the light shone brighter than ever. Christ had defeated death and left the darkness of the grave.
That light can never be put out. So now He offers the true light of life to all who are willing to trust Him and follow Him.
In this world He will guide us through all the dark patches, all the perplexities and difficulties we may have.
And for the next world, He gives the assurance of heaven where light and life are eternal.
Never any ‘lights out’ at all!