Advent 2022: Christmas Light

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

My granddaughter loves Christmas lights. Anytime we drive at night, even in the middle of summer, she is on the lookout for them. We tell her that the Christmas lights are not out yet but she always says, “Maybe we’ll see some.” I love that Joy is always searching for light in the darkness.

When I was a kid we visited a park with beautiful caverns. In one deep, dark cave the park guide turned out all the artificial lights and the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch-blackness, I lost all orientation. I had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought I was completely alone – that I had been abandoned.  Then the guide lit one small match.  All eyes were drawn to the light. With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

Adam and Eve plunged this world into sin and we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  It is the kind of darkness that makes you feel completely alone and abandoned. Oh, the world offers a distorted light that is all glitz and glitter and flash. But it’s not the kind of light that helps you find your way.  Yet we are not to despair. God had a plan from before the creation of the world – before He called forth the light (Gen 1:3). He sent His One and Only Son to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame sin and evil and death. His light has the power to overcome the darkness and despair of living in this sin-sick, evil world with all its struggles and heartaches, and pain. He is “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).

Paul wrote, “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Beloved, come live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

The Power of One Light

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In our continuing study of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7, we’ve learned through the Beatitudes the characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. In verses 13-16 Jesus taught about the influence Kingdom people have on the world. These are the “Salt and Light” verses. Jesus declared: “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world.” I have previously written on verse 13 – the salt verse. I will add a link to that post in my blog in the comments. Today we will look at the Lord’s teaching about being “the light of the world.”

From creation, light’s purpose is to shine in the darkness (John 1:5a). Light has power over darkness (John 1:5b) because darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. When light is introduced into the darkness, darkness no longer exists. When I was a kid we took a trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. There are caves for exploring all through the park and our group was standing in one of the caves when the tour guide turned off the electric lights. It was pitch black, the darkest darkness I’d ever experienced. You literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Several of us became afraid and started whimpering (and not just the girls). Then he flicked on a lighter and the darkness was gone. One small light overcame the darkness. And every eye was drawn to that light. You couldn’t miss it.

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. This directly identifies us with Him as He declared “I AM the Light of the world” (John 8:12). That means you and I have power over darkness – not our own power, but Christ’s. The world is a very dark place. Evil is everywhere. But you and I have the His light to overcome evil and darkness. When we shine with His light, the darkness has no choice but to flee. And when we shine with His light every eye will be drawn – not to us – but to the Source of the Light.

Don’t hide your light. Don’t bury it under sin and worldliness. You have the Light that overcomes darkness. Shine, Beloved. The world desperately needs to see the Light of Christ in you.

Advent 2015 – Day 21 – Glorious Joy!

 adventcandlesweek3“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even thought you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8)

Faith and joy are links in a golden chain that binds us to Jesus.  Because we believe, we have joy.  Because we have joy, we believe.   Peter tells us that our belief is rewarded with “an inexpressible and glorious joy.”  That means we have a joy that cannot be described with mere human words.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t express it.  It is evident in our words and attitudes, and especially in our interactions with others.  It is joy spoken without words.  But it gets even better . . .

Peter also describes it as a “glorious joy.”  The Greek word for glory is doxa, and it describes the awesome light that radiates from God’s presence.  The word joy comes from the root word chara which speaks of greeting someone with delight.   Now, go with me to one of the Messianic verses from the Old Testament: Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Jesus is “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).  His is a light that darkness cannot overcome (v. 5).  Oh, this is so incredible!  Because of the faith we have in Jesus, we now bring the light—the glorious light—of Christ into this dark world!  We greet the world with joy and shine the light of the glory of the Son of God that cannot be overcome!  You and I are ambassadors of light and joy!

And all we have to do is believe.

Advent 2015 — Hoping for Light

Advent candle 1The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

Today begins the traditional season of Advent, a time of preparation for the celebration of the Christ Child.  Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and lasts through December 24th.  Each week is marked with Scripture readings and the lighting of candles in the Advent Wreath and each week has a focus or theme to guide believers into the blessed season.  I will be sharing a brief devotional thought through Deeper Roots each day through Advent; I invite you to join me as I prepare my own heart for the season.

For this first week, we will focus on “Hope.”  Hope is desperately needed in our world today, and it was desperately needed for the Jewish people.  The prophet Isaiah writes our key verse to the people of Judah, whom God chose to be a holy people devoted to Him, but they had rebelled and Isaiah issued warnings of God’s impending judgement.  Yet interspersed in the dire warnings are words of hope.  This is the message of Isaiah 9:1-7—hope—and the promise of a Messiah who will bring God’s kingdom rule to earth and with it restoration for the entire nation.

The people walked in darkness, not physical darkness as if the sun refused to shine, but spiritual darkness because of their sin and rebellion, just as our world does today.  What do we hope for in the darkness?  Light!  And God promised the light of restoration to His people, just as He promises the light of truth for those who are trapped in the darkness of sin today.

We can hope in the light of God in this dark world because He has sent His light—the Light of the World—Jesus.  This Light “shines in darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it” (John 1:5).  He is “the True Light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).  On this first day of Advent, put your hope in the One who brings the Light of truth to shine forever in  your heart.

A Light in the Darkness

LightInDarknessGod is light; in Him there is not darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

It is only a brief memory, when the sky went black as night in the middle of the day. I was in school when the intercom in the classroom crackled to life and the principal’s calm but strained voice came through. Everyone was to immediately get into the interior hallways and sit against the wall with our heads tucked between our knees, arms covering the back of our necks. This was no drill – this was the real thing. As we trooped out of our classroom we saw through the windows – nothing. Blackness wrapped around our school as if someone had thrown a heavy blanket over the whole building. Several of us began to cry as our teacher tried her best to put on a brave face. We knew something very bad was happening – it wasn’t supposed to be dark in the middle of the day. Several tornadoes were reported in the area that day. Eventually the weather passed and we were relieved to see light coming in through the windows again. We even spotted a rainbow in the rain-washed sky.

What a blessing when light replaces darkness – in the sky and in our lives.

The name of God that reflects His character and His first act of creation is Yahweh Ori – the Lord my Light. Genesis tells us that “in the beginning . . . the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:1, 2). The first thing God did was “turn on the lights.” Genesis 1:3 tells us “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Interestingly, this was not the day God created the sun, moon and stars – that occurred on the fourth day of creation. No this light was called forth “from a fixed source outside the earth,”[1] The light came from God Himself.

What is light? Light can only be described as a contrast to darkness. In both Genesis 1:4 and 1:18, when God created the sun, moon and stars, the Bible says the light was created “to separate the light from the darkness.” They are two polar opposites – darkness is nothing but the absence of light. There was nothing, utter darkness – then God emanated light from Himself and that light dispelled the darkness.

Darkness happens every day when the sun sets; it happens when the skies turn black with a storm’s fury. Darkness happens in the world when evil and wickedness rule over men. That is why God sent “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 19) – His Son Jesus Christ. The hearts of men are darkened by sin, so Jesus came as “the Light of the world’ and He promised that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The light that Jesus offers is a powerful light that nothing can extinguish. John 1:5 declares “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus quoted Isaiah 9:2 when He said of Himself “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Consider this – when Jesus died on the cross, Luke 23:44 tells us that “darkness came over the whole land.” For several hours the darkness was like that blanket that seemed to wrap around my school – total blackness – the evidence of the death of the Light of the World. But on resurrection morning, Jesus burst forth from the grave and the Light of Life broke the grip of darkness over the hearts of men. Jesus is the Light and He brings Light to the darkness of the world.

Darkness also occurs when our hearts and minds are gripped with sadness, grief, hurt, anger, bitterness or despair. This is darkness within our spirit and Yahweh Ori brings His light to bear in our sufferings too. David said in Psalm 139 “If I make my bed in the depths . . . if I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you” (vs. 8, 11-12) When your circumstances are shrouded in darkness, when grief shakes your soul to the core, when defeat and discouragement threaten to snuff out the last rays of light in your life, you can be assured that God stands ready to bring His Light to your heart. His light encourages and strengthens us to take the next step, to get up the next morning, to draw the next breath. David also said “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Ps 18:28).

Jesus also tells us that when His Light shines in our lives, we become “the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). We are bearers of His light and we have the power to shatter the darkness in the world around us. We live in His light and our lives shine that others may see. When we walk in the light of Christ we are “children of the light and children of the day” and we “shine like stars in the universe” (1 Thessalonians 5:5; Philippians 2:15). That is the kind of influence I want to have – to bring the light of love and truth into the darkness of sin and suffering.

As the creation account in Genesis shows us that God brought light into the darkness of the universe, Revelation tells us that there will be no source of light other than God and Jesus in heaven. “The city 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” (Rev. 21:23). There will be no darkness, because the eternal light of the Lord will be always shining. Where there is Light, no darkness is found.

Perhaps today it is dark in your world, there may be gathering storm clouds that no one else sees but you. Maybe you have given darkness a foothold in your life through a sin that has you hiding from the light. You might be experiencing the darkness of sorrow or disappointment or hurt. Whatever the cause, know that when you invite in the Light of the World the darkness is overcome by the brightness of God’s love and goodness.

In the dark of night, in the dark night of the soul, in the darkness of evil in this world Yahweh Ori – The Lord my Light shatters darkness and illumines every shadowy corner.

Yahweh Ori – You are my Light and my salvation (Ps 27:1), You gave me eternal light when You saved me and You give me light in the dark times in my life. With You as the Light of my life I will never be overcome by the darkness.   Amen.

 

[1] John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis, (Salem, Sheffield, 1975), 49.

Hope in the Darkness

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

When do we most need hope?  In the darkness, in the season of pain and heartache and despair.  When it is hardest to find.  Our 3rd day of this Advent series focuses on the hope we must have to survive those seasons of darkness.  The hope in the promise of the Light of Jesus Christ.

I recall a trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, and a room deep within the caverns where the park guide turned out all the artificial lights – the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch black darkness I lost all orientation, had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought myself completely alone.

There are seasons of our life that are like that cave adventure, when it seems that we are lost in a deep, black darkness.  We are overwhelmed with despair, confused and disoriented-not knowing where to turn or how to escape, and we feel completely and utterly alone.  I know this one well.  I walked out of that cave in the park, but years later fell into a pit of emotional and spiritual utter darkness that lasted nearly two years.  Yet God brought me through.

While we stood in the darkness inside that cave, the guide lit one small match.  With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome.  In my season of darkness God kept one small flame flickering for me – His Word, and in the Scriptures I found the promise of light.

You see darkness is the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

From the first day of creation, God determined that light should overcome darkness: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:3-4).  He created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day “to separate light from darkness” (v. 18).

Adam and Eve plunged this world in to the darkness of sin, and so we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  Rather than the sun and moon and stars, we walk in the distorted light of the world.  And so God sent His Son, Jesus to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame the darkness of sin and evil; and His light can overcome the darkness and despair of living in this world with all its struggles and heartaches and pain.

Paul wrote “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, You have declared through your Son that “darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).  Let Your wonderful light shine in and through me Jesus – not only at Christmas, but all the days of my life.  Amen.