Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one,
Christmas has been called the season of lights and, tonight, we promote that when we bring light to this church in candle and song. All around, the colored lights on the houses and trees show us that Christmas is near.
What a glorious season Christmas is. It’s no wonder we celebrate it with bright lights. It’s very appropriate that, in the celebration of the Light of the World coming to save His struggling people, that lights would be involved.
You know, it’s said that Martin Luther actually lit the first Christmas tree. Of course, he did it with candles which can be a tad unsafe, but from that day on, people have included lights as part of their celebration and worship.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we heard the familiar words in John 1 as they speak about our Savior: “In Him was Life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Later on in John chapter eight, Jesus reinforces this thought saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
One more time in John chapter 12 we read these words of Jesus, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
We see this message of light from the prophets of the Old Testament as well. Isaiah put it this way in Chapter nine of his book, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”
This message of light occurs again and again in Scripture. Jesus came at Christmas to free His people from the darkness of sin and death and to lead them into the light of everlasting joy and peace. Jesus came to shine His light on our path toward our salvation. Jesus came to shine His light within us so that we might then let that light shine so that others might see. He came so that we might turn from our darkness into His marvelous light.
Often, people who finally get the beautiful message of Christianity describe it as turning from darkness into light. The effect on them is life changing. Sorrow has turned to joy, uncertainty has turned to hope and dimness has been turned to radiance.
This is one reason that Christ said that unless we have faith like children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s because they haven’t yet lived long enough for the darkness to completely envelope them. They haven’t had to live with it, feel it, suffer from it, neither have they had to free themselves from it. Most of them have yet to learn of the trauma of personal darkness to see how sin is attached.
So, for those of us who have suffered with their own personal darkness, the message of Christmas is a welcome break from the dark messages of the world. The message of light is cause to rejoice.
You see, it’s the lives of people who’ve lived in the depth of the darkness of despair that prove the true power of Jesus’ light. They’re the kinds of people that society might cast aside as unsavable or forever unforgiven. They’ve done terrible things that have led to immoral and darkened lives. They are the people we wouldn’t invite into our houses let alone our churches because too many would say they don’t “deserve” it for what they have done.
We even hear this prejudice in our Christmas songs:
You better watch out/ you better not cry/ you better not pout/ I’m telling you why/ Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list/ Checking it twice/ gonna find out/ who’s naughty and nice/ Santa Claus is coming to town. So be good for goodness sake!
Cute song, terrible theology. Who does the song say deserves to be accepted and receive gifts? Only those who’ve done good. In other words, only the righteous deserve these things like favor and acceptance. Only the “good” receive gifts.
Lewis Sperry Chafer once said: “Anyone can devise a plan by which good people may go to heaven. Only God can devise a plan whereby sinners, who are His enemies, can go to heaven.”
Only the Messiah has a light bright enough to show sinners the way to heaven. Only Jesus Christ can turn darkness into radiance. Only God could devise a plan by which people who have made bad, sometimes terrible decisions in their lives, might receive hope, mercy and forgiveness. Christ came to earth for all people, not just the favored or the righteous. Christ came in the form of a young child in all mortality to suffer like we have suffered and to die so that we might live.
This message is what frustrated the church leaders of His day so much. Jesus was spending His time with sinners, those who had been naughty, not nice. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, people who deserved a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. He didn’t come to shun the guilty to the darkness but to bring light to the broken. On top of all this, he had the nerve to chastise and condemn the one’s society would have thought would get the “good gifts.”
Christ’s message is one of light for a dark world and this was that message.
That’s the truth that many in our world are having trouble understanding. The truth that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” None of us are worthy on our own merits. We all need Christ in our lives.
You see, Jesus came for all of us, righteous and unrighteous alike. He loves all equally no matter where you are in life or what you have done in life. He is the light for ALL the world.
There are people out there celebrating right now that have no idea that this Good News even exists. They exchange presents without realizing that the best present of all is available to them just in the asking.
There are people out there who know there has to be something more, something greater than this and they’re waiting for you to show them the way by the light of Christ.
62% of formerly churched people are open to attend church again according to a poll done by Lifeway research. 58% believe that it’s time to go back but find it hard making that first move. 31% believe God is calling them to come back. They just wait for your invitation. It’s simply a matter of deciding to share the light of Christ with the people around you!
Even the truly wicked are open to your witness. Did you hear the story about the 92 year old woman who preached to the man who robbed her? 92 year old Pauline Jacobi had just returned to her car with her groceries, gotten into the driver’s seat and a man with a gun opened the passenger door and sat down beside her. He demanded all her money. She said “No!” (no????) In fact, she turned him down 3 times.
She told him “As quick as you kill me I’ll go to heaven and you’ll go to hell.” And then she witnessed to him for the next 10 minutes. By the time she was finished, she had the man in tears, and she gave him $10 – all the money she had – telling him not to spend it on whiskey. He kissed her on the cheek and walked away.
She witnessed to a man who walked in darkness. A man who carried a gun. A man who might very well have hurt her. But she witnessed to him anyway because, as she said “Jesus is in this car and He goes with me everywhere I go.”
Jesus was that little baby wrapped in light. The true light that shines on all who believe, who came for the sole purpose of saving His people from the darkness of sin and death.
Christmas is truly a season of lights and I hope that every time you look at the beautiful Christmas lights within your house and around your neighborhoods, you will remember where the light shines it’s brightest at Christmas.
This is the message of the Christ child. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That was made possible on that first Christmas day over 2000 years ago and the light that came into the world shines still today with all the brightness and brilliance its always had. It might have gotten lost behind some worldly distractions from time to time, but the light that shines today still invites us to rejoice in all its glory.
May the light of Christ shine in you this day and every day and may it shine so bright from you that everyone else can see its luster. Amen.