It had just been a few weeks in my friend’s life since he had been converted to the Christian faith. He was very much still learning the ropes of what it meant to be a Christian. He was just starting to read his Bible. He was just starting to learn Christian-ese. He was just starting to experience the glorious freedom that comes through knowing Jesus Christ as His Lord. There was so much joy in this brother’s life that everywhere he went he just exuded it like one of my boys in a candy store. I remember one particular day he was talking to me about some of his experiences in his past: The drugs, the promiscuity, the anger, the hatred that he had for others. As he talked his eyes would tear up and he would say, “I feel like for the first time in my life I see things as they really are. I really can see.” My friend had gone from darkness to Light, and suddenly everything changed. The world looked different, and things started making sense in ways they never had before. That is what happens when the light shines in the darkness. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” At Christmas, Jesus, the light of the world came and to this day, He hasn’t stopped shining. What does this shining light do?
This actually can be quite painful. When the light is off in the house, it may actually seem clean. But when we turn the light on than we start noticing things that we might not want to notice: Dust on the blinds, Stains on the carpet, Lies we tell ourselves, People we’ve hurt. There is always much more crime done in the dark. Bars are almost always dark. Not much light in there. The more light, the more exposed; the more exposed the more vulnerable; the more vulnerable, the more potential for pain. One of the reasons that Jesus came was to expose the darkness within our hearts; to shine light on them, not for the purpose of causing pain, but ultimately to get us to tell the truth about ourselves….
I’m pretty sure when my kids we’re babies, my apartment had the worst furnishing ever. We had blinds. They looked nice for about 1.2 hours, until virtually every one of them was broken because my sons thought it fun to pull them off and run around with them. As much as I didn’t like it when they did this, it makes for a good illustration because Jesus tears down the blinds we put up, and allows his light to shine in. The Bible says, in John 1that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. One of the main reasons that Jesus was crucified was because He went around tearing down blinds, shining His light on people in places that they didn’t want exposed. He still does the same thing today. The Christ still shines His light down upon the consciences of His creation and He calls each one of us to account for the darkness within. But of course, that’s not all that light does….
Light Shows Us The Way
Indeed, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Apart from Him whatever paths we take, as profitable, or pleasurable as they may be won’t ultimately show the Way to God.
When I was a teenager I went on a hike with a couple friends of mine in the mountains near my house. We knew we were starting the hike later in the day and therefore later than we probably should have, but the foolishness/arrogance of youth led us out into the hills without fear. Sure enough, on the way back from our hike it began to get dark. Folks, when it gets dark in the middle of the mountains, (especially if there is no moon or stars shining above as it was that night), you can barely see your hand in front of your face, let alone the trail you’re supposed to hike on the way back. A bit of panic started to set in, until one of my older friends had an idea: He grabbed a fairly large stick off the ground, took off the flannel shirt he had been wearing, wrapped it around the stick and lit it on fire with my lighter and voila, we now had light to see the path home! (Looking back on this idea I think two things: 1. We are extremely fortunate that we did not burn down the forest. 2. It felt like we were in a movie and it was AWESOME).
Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He is the torch, the illumination we are desperate for to find our way home.
But here’s the thing…. We still need more than this. Unfortunately, many a Christian lecture, sermon and writing will sort of end the work of Christ at this point. So we walk away thinking Jesus primarily came into this world to do two things: Show us how much we suck and then show us the proper way to live instead of being sucky. That’s why the most important thing I can tell you the light of the world came to do is GIVE you life….
Light Gives Us Life
Have you ever seen what happens to a plant when it doesn’t have light? It dies. We too apart from the light of Christ are dead. The world was dead, but then Christ came, fulfilled the law in our place, died our death, rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the throne of the Father where He intercedes on your behalf. The light shines and dead people are raised!
Ephesians 2 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins, BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
One of the great Christmas sermons Martin Luther ever preached was based on the text in Isaiah 9 where it says “To us a child is born, to us a son is given.” In response he preached thus: “The first thing to learn in this prophecy of Isaiah is that a child is born to you and is your child…. We must accentuate the word “us” and write it large. That is, when you hear, “A child has been born to us, make the two letters US as large as heaven and earth and say, “The child is born, it is true; but for whom is he born: Unto US, for us he is born, says the prophet.”He continues, “God allowed this child to be born for the sake of condemned and lost sinners. Therefore, hold out your hand, lay hold of it, and say, “True, I am godless and wicked, there is nothing good in me, nothing but sin, vice, depravity, death, devil, and hellfire; against all this, however, I set this child whom the Virgin Mary has in her lap and at her breast. For since he is born for me, that he might be my treasure, I accept this child and set him over against everything I do not have.”
Therefore he concludes, “For what can the devil with all his evil tricks do to the Christian who lays hold on these words in all seriousness and firm faith? For though such a Christian be tempted by the devil, he can easily oppose him and say, “Devil, are you listening? Do you know that a child has been born? Yes, indeed, do you know that he was born for us, that is, for me? That’s when the devil has to back off.”
….And the darkness has not overcome it.