Walking in Darkness

The Gospel of John makes great use of dark and light imagery. John beautifully weaves metaphors of night and darkness with sin and death. Light becomes a symbol of Christ and hope. Even at the end of Judas’ betrayal story, John writes that Judas got up from the warmth of the supper in the upper room and went ”into the night.”

As we quickly approach Christmas this week, our neighborhoods, our trees, our banisters, and even our tacky sweaters are encased in light. We do this as a celebration of the Christ-child, who was born to be the ”Light of the World.” On Christmas Eve, we will finally light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent Wreaths and proclaim that Christ is a Light that can never be extinguished. Amen!

John 8:12 says this: ”Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; whoever follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

The Light of Life. Think about it! Following Jesus means that we have access to a light that will illuminate our path no matter what tragedy, temptation, or trial encumbers us. Like a flashlight, all we need to do is turn it on and point it toward the darkness.

Isaiah also wrote beautiful words about darkness and light. In the ninth chapter, we discover this passage, which tells us exactly why the Light of the World came:

Isaiah 9 (New Revised Standard Version)

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

And now for the Christmas part:
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jesus came to light up your situation. He came with so much power and might, there is no force of darkness you can encounter that could dull his wattage. He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace, who brings endless peace to the world.

Do you lack peace right now? Turn on the Light.

Darkness to Light by Stacey Hanf

Merry Christmas!

And so the day we have long anticipated is here! Christ is born, and born again in our hearts. Take a moment in your busy day to dwell on that.

What does Jesus mean to you?

What is joy?

What message will you carry from this day into tomorrow?

Isaiah 9 (New International Version)

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

May peace reign in your home and heart today, and may angel-songs fill the air. Merry Christmas!

A Light Has Dawned by Karen Warlitner

The Why of Christmas

Have you ever found yourself doing something over and over, and not even knowing why? I remember reading a sermon illustration many years ago about a young wife who was preparing her first Christmas dinner for her new husband. She took a beautiful, large, honeyed ham and promptly cut both ends off. Then she placed it in her roasting pan, covered it with foil, and put it in the oven.

Her husband watched this with interest. “Why do you cut the ends off?” he asked. She hesitated for a moment, and then replied, “I’m not sure. It’s the way my mother always did it.” Finally, her curiosity got the better of her and she called her mother and asked why they always cut the ends off of the ham. Did it help it cook better? Did it add to the flavor? Did they prefer the ends to be crispy?

Her mother laughed and replied, “Oh, none of those reasons. I had to cut the ends off because my pan was always too small to fit the whole thing.”

Sometimes it helps to know the why.

We have talked a lot about the “who” of Christmas, the “where” of Christmas, the “how” of Christmas, and even the “what” of Christmas. Did you ever think about the “why?”

Titus 3 (Contemporary English Version)

God our Savior showed us
    how good and kind he is.
He saved us because
    of his mercy,
and not because
of any good things
    that we have done.

This passage helps us to uncover why Jesus was born. He came to save us because he is good, kind, and filled with mercy. But most importantly, he came to save us because we could not save ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by ANYTHING we can do on our own.

Do you get that? You can’t be “good enough.” Thankfully, that also means that you can be “bad enough” to not qualify for God’s grace. You can’t earn it or be ineligible to receive it….thanks be to God for that.

God washed us by the power
    of the Holy Spirit.
He gave us new birth
    and a fresh beginning.
God sent Jesus Christ
our Savior
    to give us his Spirit.

Jesus treated us much better
    than we deserve.
He made us acceptable to God
and gave us the hope
    of eternal life.

Why was Jesus born on that first Christmas? To make us acceptable to God and to give us hope for eternal life. He cleanses us of our sin and gives us new birth through water and the spirit.

The best part of it all is that we’ve been given something so much better than we deserve. Thanks be to God!

Jesus is the Light of the World by Cheryl Lynn Smith

Darkness into LIGHT

Advent begins in darkness. This is a deliberate thing, meant to bring us back to a time when the prophets declared that the “people were walking in darkness.” That scripture is a word-figure for the reality of the absence of the Light of the World from our lives. Before Jesus arrived, God’s people had descended from the Garden of Eden into deep and hopeless darkness, until it was so ink-black you could not see your soul in front of your face.

We recognize the descent into darkness and Advent’s ascent into light in the things around us. The Advent wreath has four unlit candles on the first day of Advent. Each Sunday we light one, then two, then three, then four, and FINALLY we arrive at Christmas Eve, when the white Christ candle standing at the center is lit. What a joyful moment that is to behold…all the flames dancing at once in the air of anticipation met and expectation unfolded.

Ponder this Christ Candle lighting liturgy from the United Methodist Church:

O Finality.
O final Light.
O luminous One,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

O End of Night.
O Day’s Light without ending.

O Light, all light,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

Break forth, O heavenly Light, and reign to the ages of ages.
Shine forever and let no more greed or hatred near.
Illumine and save all creation,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

O Light, we shall see face to face.
O Radiancy, we shall ever bear upon our foreheads.
O Splendor of Love, the world of greed and hatred ending,
outshining lamp, stars and sun.

That is a rich and beautiful series of images, emotions, and ideas. You may want to read it again. But the repetition of “outshining lamp, stars and sun” truly stands out. Jesus is the true light that illumines everything; a light that no one can extinguish.

Maybe this Christmas Eve is still dark for you. Grief, loneliness, illness, separation, missing your family, financial hardship…many things can dull the light. But all these things are worldly. Jesus is the Light of the World, and he longs to shine warmth, joy, and peace into your dark places.

Today is a day to do nothing else but embrace the Light. His light brings healing. His light brings solace. His light shines the way to eternal light, where literally none of those things matter. As much as it matters here and as deeply as you are feeling it, NONE of it will matter in eternity.

John 1 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

No darkness can overcome Jesus. He outshines the lamp. He outshines the stars. He outshines the SUN.

Bask in that light today. If you are headed to a Christmas Eve service, listen for the light, look at the light, and be the light. If you aren’t, ponder these words again just like Mary pondered the angel’s proclamation of Jesus’ birth…in your heart.

Jesus is the Light of the World! A light no one can extinguish.

Becca’s Moon by Becca Ziegler