Light of the world

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Receive the love of God as your light today

By Dennis Fast

A man finally put up the lighted “N-O-E-L” sign in his yard one cold night close to Christmas. His first mistake was waiting so long and the second was putting the letters up from behind them instead of facing them. He fumbled and bumbled and said some very un-Christmas-like things in the process.

He finally finished, plugged in the lights and went to bed. The next morning he awoke to a foot of snow on the ground. He went outside to take a look at his sign and noticed that from the street it spelled, “L-E-O-N.” Now, his neighbor across the street was named Leon. And when the neighbor saw him fixing the sign he said, “Man, I thought that was just for me!”

The Advent theme of “light” is one that makes the coming of Christ personal. It allows each of us to say, “Man, I thought that was just for me.” When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” he was announcing one more time that he is God, come to make sense out of confusion as he turns darkness into light.

 

Light throughout the Bible
Have you ever noticed that the Bible begins and ends with light? Genesis 1 and Revelation 21 are very much about light. Clearly the theme of light is very close to the heart of the Bible’s message. In I John 1:5 we read, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Do a survey of the Bible and it seems that light and darkness find their way into all the major acts of God in biblical history:

  • Creation begins when God, looking into the emptiness and darkness, says, “Let there be light!”
  • God’s deliverance of Israel includes a plague of darkness over the land of Egypt and then leading the people through the desert for 40 years with a pillar of fire (light) by night.
  • At Jesus’ birth angels appear to shepherds “and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” When wisemen from the East come seeking him, they follow the light of a star that shines brighter than any other light.
  • When Jesus gives his life on the cross, darkness covers the land for three hours. Then the light dawns that resurrection morning to reveal an empty tomb—a living Savior.
  • And we read in Revelation 21 that the holy city (heaven) “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

For this Advent season and through Christmas Day let this one idea capture your mind—that God is light!

  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Ps. 27:1).
  • “The Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isa. 60:19).
  • “By his light I walked through darkness” (Mic. 7:8).

Has darkness come over you lately? Has a cloud blocked the Son of God from shining his light into your life? Receive the love of God as your light today. God is light in such a way that Jesus could say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This is a great Christmas message!

 

“I am the light of the world”
Here’s the setting in which Jesus spoke the words of John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” If we look ahead to John 10 there is the Feast of Dedication, which we know as Hanukkah. This festival also includes a focus on light.

As we look back at John 7 we notice that Jesus is teaching in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2). In John 7:14 we learn that Jesus makes an appearance about half way through this week-long festival, and in John 7:37 we read that “on the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’” It just happens that on this day there is a water ceremony with a procession of people carrying water jars around the town and pouring them out. Jesus times his speech perfectly.

All that to say that John 8:12 is closely connected to this Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival the priests fill large, hanging, golden bowls with oil so that they become large lamps. These bowls of oil are lit when darkness falls over the city, and from history we learn that the blaze from these glowing lamps lights up every courtyard in Jerusalem.

Imagine the scene as the light from these bowls reflects off the yellow limestone walls throughout the city. It must have been spectacular. And now picture Jesus standing beneath these lit bowls of oil announcing, “I am the light of the world!”

 

No more darkness
As I picture this scene in my mind I realize that Jesus timed his speech in a way that his message meant something like this: You have seen the great blaze of light shining into the darkness of the night. This light illuminates our city every year at this festival. Tomorrow the feast will be over and all will be dark again. But you don’t have to live in darkness the rest of the year. The one who follows me will find light, not just for one night, not for just one festival, but will have the light of life!

And Jesus offers that light to us today. Will Jesus look at the lights on our trees and in our homes and our churches and say something like that? We light up our churches with special programs and decorations, but they don’t last. After Christmas Day, when all the lights come down, what will happen to you? Will you look for the next vacation, the next festival, the next program to try to outdo the last one? On January 1 will you be in darkness or will you have the light of life?

One year in the children’s Christmas drama there was a point at which the lights were to all go out except for one hidden light in the manger. It was supposed to shine out in the darkness to show the radiance of the newborn Savior. But something went wrong. The person controlling the lights became confused and everything went dark, including the manger. It was a tense moment in the crowd and on stage until one of the shepherds said in a loud stage whisper, “Hey, you switched off Jesus.”

Jesus didn’t come as the light of the world to be turned off and on. His announcement came with this wonderful promise that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

 

The light in you
The good news of the light of the world can be described like this:

No more faking—the light of the world God sees everything. You cannot hide from the light so you might as well just come totally clean before the Lord God. No need for pretense, no cover up, no acting like you’re perfect. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) God sees it all—open your heart to him.

No more fearing—the light of the world God knows everything. He knows the tragedies of our nation this year, he knew the innocent babies that died in Bethlehem at the hand of Herod and he knows about your pain and your fear. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1) God knows it all and offers to enter our lives.

No more failing—the light of the world God forgives every sin. The greatest gift ever given was when God, in Christ, came as the Savior of the world to become the payment for our sins. We fail, yes. We sin, of course. But we are no longer failures. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). God forgives as we confess our sin. He saves and forgives.

We learn from the Christmas story in Luke that facing the light of the world can be a terrifying experience—at first. But then we realize that the light has come to dispel our fears: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people’” (Luke 2:8-10.)

An old hymn is also an appropriate Advent hymn as it contains the words:
The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin;
The light of the world is Jesus.
Like sunshine at noonday his glory shone in;
The light of the world is Jesus.
Come to the light — tis shining for thee.
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see.
The light of the world is Jesus.

Dennis Fast is lead pastor at Reedley (Calif.) MB Church.

CL Archives
This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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