We read it every Christmas, typically the first Sunday in Advent, as we light the purple candle symbolizing the prophet's hope. This Christmas, these words have taken on new meaning…
Maybe its because we are living in Haiti, a place that many people call spiritually "dark"(and rightfully so)…
Maybe its because I feel like I have never seen the sun shine so many consecutive days before… Haiti is VERY sunny lately!…
Maybe its because the FIRST thing I do every morning is plug in my Christmas lights to help it feel like Christmas, when the weather certainly doesn't FEEL like it- AT ALL!
Maybe its because it seems that over and over again God has been showing me things, things concerning the concept of light and how it ties so intimately with Christmas… (and maybe that too is because of where we are!)
Whatever it might be…or all of these combined… I have come to understand even more clearly that light and Christmas have MUCH in common!
The last English chapel I had the opportunity to preach, and I decided to share on this topic because it has been in my mind and on my heart so much lately…
First I asked the question, "What is light?" Something I never really thought about defining before! The dictionary says it is "an agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible… or the understanding of a problem or mystery"
Then I asked the question, "What is the purpose of light… or what does light DO for us?"
Everyone threw out some great responses: it exposes the darkness, helps us find our way, brings life to things like plants, creates beauty, brings color and warmth, brings meaning and understanding.
We then looked at what Scripture says about light and darkness. After God created the heavens and the earth He created light, and He said it was good! Light is where it all began. But when we look at what the Bible says about darkness we see it used as a plague in Exodus, it is a symbol of sadness in Joel, distress and anguish in Isaiah… darkness is compared, all through the Bible, to sin, fear, confusion, loneliness, helplessness, and loss.
Scientists try to study light and explain it, but as followers of Christ we know where light comes from!
God IS light. He created light. He exposed the darkness by bringing forth light… Living in darkness is living WITHOUT light.
Without light there is NO life. Without light we would be lost. Plants cannot live without light, and we cannot physically live without light… and without spiritual light, we have NO hope.
Christmas helps us to see this more clearly than any other event in all of history. And I love how, as the Light of the World (Jesus Christ) enters time and space in a manger in Bethlehem, God uses LIGHT to lead others to Him!
The shepherds, we are told in Luke 2, see a brilliant light, the glory of the Lord shining around them. And they are told of a Messiah that was born in Bethlehem… and they respond to that light by going to the place He was born and seeing the Christ child.
The wise men are led to Jesus by a wondrous star, a beam of light that would lead them to the place to meet the Savior of the world!
God used light to draw others to see His Light that had come into the world.
The prophecies in Isaiah foretold of a child that would be born and would bring Light into the darkness (chapter 9)… spoke of a Savior who would lead the blind and turn darkness into light (chapter 42). Zechariah prophesied days before Jesus was born that He would "give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:78)
John said this about John the Baptist (Zechariah's son), "he came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him… the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world."
And Jesus Himself, during His ministry on earth, said this about Himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."(John 8:12)… and later in verse 46, "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness."
Can you see now why Christmas is SO intimately tied with LIGHT?! I have never seen it so much before as I have THIS Christmas…
But we can't simply stop there. Yes Jesus IS light…. But you know what He says?
SO ARE WE!
Jesus didn't only call Himself the Light of the World, He calls US that too. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says that WE are the light of the world and that we shouldn't hide our light, but shine! To "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Jesus brought light to a dark world, redemption to a people lost in darkness, and our job is to testify to that Light! To point others to the only One who can free them from the darkness that comes from separation from God because of sin.
I have a great story to share that can help illustrate this beautifully…
If you have read Matt and Stacey's blog, or seen the pictures on Facebook, you know that Matt, Phil, Sam and Junior went to prison on Sunday. Not because they got into trouble!... But because Matt was asked by a student to join him and some people from his church, and to preach a worship service there yesterday. Phil looked forward to the opportunity to be a part of it.
When they arrived at the jail, they saw that the prison cells were placed around a center courtyard, where Matt preached and the service was held.
A sound system brought the message to the cells (each cell is a 12' x 20' space shared by 30-40 prisoners each… a place of misery that I can only imagine)… and yet, despite their harsh circumstances, they sang along with the songs!
(In the above picture you can see as someone is delivering "meals" to the 30+ prisoners in this cell)
What is so beautiful about this is that Matt came to share about how difficult Mary and Joseph's circumstances really were, how harsh the events were surrounding the birth of Jesus. And yet… there is Hope. A Messiah was coming into the world… to bring light to a dark place.
And here's where it gets really cool!
As Matt came to share the Good News of Jesus, Emmanuel, God's Son being born among us, the light of the sun began to enter the courtyard. Phil said that as the heat from the sun poured in, they began to move closer and closer to the inmates. The warmth from the sun was literally pushing them toward those in darkness!!!
What a great picture, isn't it!?
What Christ has done for us, the message of Christmas- that the Light, the Savior, has come into the world- should push us to tell others about Him… to bring hope to those in darkness… to BE a light!
May WE be a light this Christmas!