One of the great things about Christmas is the wonderful displays of lights.
I remember when I was a kid looking forward to something we did once almost every year. We would get in the car and drive around the city to the blocks or houses that were known to have the best light displays. There’s something special about getting in a warm car on a cold night and admiring beautiful, creative displays of light. If you’ve had that experience, you know that it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe: comfort, safety and a sense of wonder – all at the same time.
There’s something really appropriate about lights at Christmas time.
Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light …” and, by the end of that passage, we’re told that this great light dawns upon them because a child is born who will be known as Mighty God and Prince of Peace.
Today, we know that child was Jesus. We celebrate Christmas because, as John says, at Jesus’ birth, the true light was coming into the world.
We enjoy the beauty of light, but it’s actually something we need, too. The Department of Biology can tell us that without light most life forms on earth could not survive, and humans certainly couldn’t. In Genesis 1, the very first thing God did after creating the heavens and the earth was he said, “Let there be … light!” We need light for our physical life. Not just for food, but to function. Ever stubbed your toe in the dark? It’s dangerous without light.
Here’s where our physical need for light blends over into our spiritual need for light. We need to keep our hearts beating and our lungs breathing, but we need more than that.
There’s a lot of spiritual darkness around us in the world today. Wars, acts of terrorism, human trafficking. There’s all the fake news and the false claims of fake news that push us to be divided from our neighbors and the people we share this country with. And then there’s the news we wish were fake about well-known Christians and church leaders either giving up their faith in Christ or acting in evil ways that bring shame on the church. You know what I mean. Read Psalm 96 and Isaiah 9. We need justice and righteousness in our world.
But as dark as the world around us is, you and I both know that some of the deepest darkness we ever encounter is when we look inside and see that we, too, are sinners. Our own failure, guilt and shame can make us feel so unworthy. It’s not uncommon for people to feel that the Christmas season, which is supposed to be such a joyous time, is for them one of the hardest times of the year, because they feel so hopeless. If you’re actually dreading Christmas, you’re not alone.
But no matter what your darkest darkness is, Jesus is the light. John says that Jesus’ light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t put it out. There’s nothing you’ve done that’s so shameful that Jesus won’t forgive you, and there’s no amount of sin so great that Jesus won’t forgive it all. He knows it all, but He loves you, and He wants you to be forgiven of all of it.
When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him that he wanted to open people’s eyes so they would turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so they could receive forgiveness of sins and be included among those who are made holy by faith in Christ.
Does it sound too good to be true? Is there a catch? It might sound like there’s a catch, but the truth is, it’s all good. Let me explain what I mean.
When the story of the angels announced Jesus’ birth in Luke 2, do you notice what happened when the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds? What was their first response? They were terrified. And when Paul had his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he saw such a bright light that he fell to the ground and when he later got up, he was blind for three days. So the light of Jesus isn’t necessarily always the most pleasant experience.
You and I may not have experiences quite like those. But, for us, it might go more like this: When Jesus’ light begins to shine into our lives – that is, when we hear that He loves us and is willing to forgive us of all our sins and failures – we’re excited and encouraged. But as His light shines in our lives, we start to notice some things in the corners that we weren’t really thinking about. Things like pride, self-centeredness, impurity. Things we feel kind of embarrassed about but weren’t really wanting to do anything about.
If we’re going to experience the full, brilliant brightness of Jesus’ light, we need to surrender those things to Him, also. We can ask Him to forgive us and let Him know that we want to cooperate with Him as He transforms us into people who truly value humility and purity. It can seem like a catch, but it’s so worth it to drive out the darkness and enjoy the full, clear light.
Let’s invite the light of Jesus in. Let’s receive it into every corner of our being. It brings forgiveness, healing and inner change. You’ll find that as you let Christ’s light shine into you, you become light for others, as well. And the darkness is chased away.
Enjoy the lights this Christmas season, but be sure to receive the true light that has come into the world. It’s something to really look forward to.
*This blog entry originally served as Dr. Nykolaishen’s chapel address on Dec. 3, 2019.
Do you have a story you’d like to tell on the Ouachita Voices blog? Or a friend who needs to tell a story on the blog? Contact email@example.com with your idea.
The Ouachita Voices blog is a place for the people of Ouachita to tell the stories of Ouachita. Lend your voice to the conversation. Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.