There is so much to enjoy during the Christmas holiday although sometimes it is difficult to keep my focus on the real meaning of the season. I love the cooler weather in Florida and creating just the right Christmas card based on our travels that year. This year we visited my brother, Mel and his wife, Louise on Long Island and I grabbed a shot of Mary and I in front of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center.
Most of us have probably heard the Christmas story before. But while reading through the Bible this year, I noticed something that I had never really seen before.
I had read passages about Jesus’ birth and heard them read a thousand times growing up in church, but there is a theme woven throughout Jesus’ birth that never dawned on me. Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth, is all about the lights.
I think we can all admit that we live in a dark world. According to the Bible, a long, long time ago the world was perfect. God created a perfect paradise free from all the problems we have today. But then darkness—what the Bible calls sin—crept in and messed everything up.
But this mess wasn’t God’s fault. God didn’t create the world to be this dark. Christmas is the story of God’s solution. It is the story of how God brought light back to our dark world.
I was studying the book of John recently and noticed a common theme in the way he talks about Jesus’ grand entrance into the world. John is constantly referring to Jesus as “the light.” The following verses are from John 1:1-9 in the New International Version.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The apostle John is talking about the beginning of time. His words are a reference to the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Three persons, all one God. This means that Jesus was right there in the beginning at the creation of the universe because he and God are one.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Remember, Jesus is the light.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
This verse is talking about John the Baptist, a prophet of God sent to proclaim the coming of Jesus.
7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, creator of the universe, stepped out of Heaven and became God incarnate (God in flesh). Why did he come? According to John, Jesus came to bring light. He came to shine in the darkness. A light so strong that darkness can never overcome it.
Have you ever been somewhere that was completely pitch dark? I mean, you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. The one and only time I went deer hunting I was in my early twenties. Four of my buddies and I rented a cabin in Northern Wisconsin. We had zero experience hunting deer but heard you had to “drive” the deer by walking through the woods toward our deer blind, a kind of a tree house, where one of the guys was waiting with a high-powered rifle. What could go wrong?
We spread out and started to walk. After a while I lost sight of my buddies. The temperature was dropping rapidly and soon it would be dark. I was lost, it was freezing cold, it was pitch black with no lights and I was scared. Eventually I was able to flag down another hunter who gave me a ride back to my cabin but I will never forget the feeling of hopelessness.
That is where the world is without Jesus. That is each and every one of our lives without Jesus.
Jesus is the light of the world.
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
You may have heard John 3:16 before. It is probably the most famous verse in the Bible.
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. …
Being a Christian isn’t some spiritual club for the super elite. Whoever believes in Jesus can have eternal life. You can be rescued from the dark things of your past. Jesus can make all that darkness go away. He offers forgiveness, salvation, love, hope, joy, and peace for all eternity in the light with him in Heaven.
Look at v.19-20, just a few sentences later. Jesus is still talking.
Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. John 3:19-20
This is the problem, isn’t it? Jesus offers us light, but we love darkness. If we are really honest, we don’t love the light.
We have a fascination inside that draws us towards the dark side.
- We have dark secrets
- Dark thoughts
- Dark desires
- A dark past
- Dark sins that we would rather keep in the dark
Many of you know about Jesus. This probably isn’t the first time you have ever heard about him before. But many of us are afraid of him. Why? Because we have secrets that we are afraid will come out if we get too close to Jesus. We want to feel justified in our wrongdoing because everyone else is doing it too. If everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t feel so bad.
It’s like when you are in a really dark room, and your eyes adjust to the darkness. You don’t feel like it is so dark. But as soon as a light comes into the darkness, it makes you squint. You realize just how dark it really was in there. Jesus is so bright and so pure that he exposes the darkness in our lives.
Next to his perfection, every imperfection and sin is obvious in our life. Next to his light, all the darkness is stripped away, and we are raw and vulnerable.
I teach a class at the Salvation Army based on Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Drive Life. The class is composed of 10-15 men and women who have an addiction to alcohol, drugs or both. I have no statistics on who wins the battle over their addiction but when I run into former students, I get a sense that those who ran to the light, as opposed to from the light had a better chance of succeeding.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
Christmas is all about the light. It is all about Jesus. Let’s keep our focus on him this season. Every time you see a Christmas light this year, it is my prayer that you will be reminded that Jesus is the light of the world. He is the only hope that we have.
And I know that Christmas, for some a happy time of year, can also bring sadness. It can be a reminder of loved ones who are no longer with us. It can be a reminder of our difficult financial situation. It can be a reminder of the dysfunction of our family. It can be a reminder of how lonely we are. It can be a reminder of how difficult this last year has been.
But in Christ, there is hope. There is light. He alone gives us hope and purpose to continue to carry on. We live in a dark world. But Jesus alone can rescue you from the darkness.
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46
That is why we celebrate Christmas! That is why we put up Christmas lights. It is a reminder that this is the season that we celebrate the light of Christ coming to a dark world to rescue us, to rescue you, and to rescue me.
Will this Christmas and every Christmas from this day forward be a glorious reminder not just the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but also the moment that you finally saw the light? The profit Isaiah 700 years before Christ was born said: in Isaiah 9:6:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Councilor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
May the glory of the Lord shine all around you this holiday season!