Open your phone or tablet to today’s news on a national (or local) news site or have a copy of this morning’s newspaper. Be ready to describe examples drawn from your source at the appropriate point in the message.
Optional: Plan to show a video clip of the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony or search “Christmas lights” on the YouTube site to find an appropriate video clip.
Christmas comes with lots of traditions, especially decorating traditions. Trees. Wreaths. Stockings “hung by the chimney with care.” Reindeer antlers for the family dog. But if I had to name the most traditional of traditions, if I were asked about the quintessential Christmas decoration, it would have to be lights.
Twinkle lights brighten the eaves on many roofs this time of year. Candles glow in many homes. Year after year, newscasters call our attention to the lighting of the national Christmas tree in Washington, D.C. Even people who don’t decorate a tree in their homes often string colored lights around the front windows of their apartments or light candles to mark the season. (Optional: Introduce and show your video clip at this point if you have not already done so.)
Why all this emphasis on light? In part, it’s probably because Christmas comes at the darkest time of year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Many of us go to work or school in the dark—and arrive home after the sun has set. After even a few weeks, the darkness of winter can feel very oppressive. Some people even suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. It’s aptly named!
Still, this oppressive darkness of “shortened” days pales in comparison to how the New Testament describes sin—a malignant darkness with an enormous appetite. Left unchecked, unrestrained, the darkness of sin would swallow the entire human race in despair and death. This darkness infects everyone living on our planet. (Show this morning’s news and point out examples of the pain brought about by sin.)
It’s a dark world out there! But the darkness is in here, too. Even those of us who sit in church week by week know the power of sin and death. We know what it’s like to try to break habits of gossip or greed or worry or lust or even garden-variety moodiness. We feel the pain of sickness at work in our own bodies, and it reminds us that death will one day catch up with us. At one time or another, we have all grieved the loss of loved ones whom we could not protect, no matter how much we longed to do so.
Sin. Satan. Physical death. Eternal separation from God. We live in a dark world, and if we’re honest, we must admit that we ourselves have added to that darkness. It’s bad news!
But the good news is that God did not leave us shivering alone in the dark to die in fear and shame. Christmastime is the perfect time to emphasize light because the Bible reveals Jesus as “the light of the world.” Jesus is “the light of life” who has come into the darkness of our sinful world.
No marching bands attended the Savior as he came. No tickertape parades announced his coming. No. Jesus came quietly, simply. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son; she “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7 KJV). In the stillness of that very first Christmas night, the light began to shine in our darkness. Listen! (Read John 8:12.)
Months later, the Wise Men saw the Christmas star, and they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10 KJV). (Emphasize the words exceeding and great joy.) They saw the Light of life! They knelt to worship the infant King, the Savior. For us, as for them, the good news is that in Jesus, the darkness of sin, of guilt, of shame evaporates. All of it! In the light of Jesus, our darkness dissolves.
No darkness causes more gloom than the grave. But Jesus came as “the light of life” (John 8:12 KJV). (Emphasize the word life.) That may be why Christians were the people who first called graveyards “cemeteries”—sleeping chambers! In doing so, they reminded themselves—and us—that one day soon God will raise us to a life that never ends.
On the cross, Jesus died our death; he endured our eternal punishment. Now, in his resurrection, he floods every cemetery with the blazing light of his Resurrection Day victory! (Read 1 Corinthians 15:20–22.)
Like we ourselves, Mary and Joseph could not have understood everything God was doing. But Mary “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 KJV). In doing so, she no doubt came day by day to a deepening peace, a fuller sense of awe.
We can join her, as during this Christmas season we continue to reflect on the wonder of our Savior, who is the Light of the World and the Light of Life. Jesus, the Savior, was born for you and the light of his love and forgiveness now belongs to you by faith!
Editor’s note: Use today’s devotion to encourage the homebound that are part of your ministry. Make a visit and read this devotion out loud to them. If you can, leave a Christmas card or devotion book with them to remind them of your visit and the loving care of your church community.
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