Pushing Back The Darkness
As we make our journey through the Advent Season, one symbol is pre-eminent—LIGHT! Tree lights, candle lights, houses, buildings, and malls are all decorated with lights. Perhaps it’s a parable of our times that we are rarely without some form of light. I suppose we ought to thank Edison for that. It is said that after thousands of experiments, when he finally achieved this monumental breakthrough that would affect all of human history, Edison heard the shrill voice of his wife cry out, “For goodness sake, Tom, would you turn off that light and come to bed!”
We rarely experience total darkness because we have so much artificial light. Perhaps this is a parable of the inner darkness and emptiness of modern humanity. The writers of the Bible understood the significance of darkness and light.
In one of the prophecies about Christ, Isaiah beckoned his hearers to walk in the light of the Lord. “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 Paul challenges us to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, the imagery is sharp and vivid. Without God there is nothing but confusion, dread, darkness and death. In Him is light and life.
The first recorded word that God spoke was, “Let there be light!” John, in his first epistle says, “Walk in the light as he is in the light.” That’s the basic message of the entire Bible. God can light up the entire universe with galaxies of indescribable dimensions, but there is one little corner of creation that with all His power and might He cannot reach without our help—the darkness within the human heart.
Many of you who are parents can appreciate God’s dilemma. The world’s greatest scientist or philosopher with an I.Q. at the top of the scale—with money and power may not be able to get through to a wayward son or daughter. Even the most devout Christian parent may watch helplessly as his offspring chooses the low road.
Imagine the agony of God as He surveys the darkness of life on our planet: hatred, murder, rape, and war. Imagine His despair as He beholds how we are bent on self-destruction. He offers us a better way, a way of abundant living and yet we waste our lives in the frivolous pursuit of status, pleasure, wealth, and power.
Let me offer three observations which help us draw a sharp contrast between the world of darkness and the full light of God’s love we celebrate in this Christmas season.
First, God’s light shines on us in the midst of our darkness. In the Bible, the coming of the light into the world is seen as an act of judgment. When we come into the light we are seen with all of our flaws, all of our misdeeds, and all of our weaknesses.
Of course, the irony is that we delude ourselves when we think that we can hide anything from God. You may be familiar with the story of a man who discovered his little daughter praying for him out loud. When she was finished, he said to her, “Honey, I appreciate you praying for me, but did you have to tell God that I have a hangover?”
Then there is the little girl who cut off a large section of her hair. When her mother realized it, she was very upset. The girl asked, “But how did you know, Mommy? I hid the hair very carefully. How did you know?”
We must look just as foolish as that little girl standing before God trying to hide our flaws from the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows us and loves us and accepts us just as we are. That is the Gospel!
I think we often misunderstand the function of God’s judgment. His judgment comes not as retribution but as redemption. He wants to save us from ourselves. As a physician seeks to remove a deadly spot from the body, so God wants to remove the dark spot from our soul, not for His sake but for ours.
Some of the same characteristics of darkness are still with us today as much as in those days gone by. Among these are idolatry, bondage, foolishness, confusion, superstition and spiritual blindness. Only the light of the Gospel reveals the true emptiness of such living.
Second, God’s light shines into us. I like the story of the grandfather who took his little grandson for a walk in the woods. As they were walking along they stopped for a moment the grandfather asked, "Do you know where we are?" The little boy said, "No." The grandfather asked, "Do you know where we’re going?" And the little boy again said, "No." The grandfather chuckled and said, "Well, I guess you’re lost then." The boy looked up at his grandfather and said, "No, I’m not lost. I’m with you."
No matter what may happen to us in the world or where we find ourselves, the Lord is with us. And when Jesus is with us we are never lost. The Bible says, “He is our light and our salvation, of whom should we be afraid?”
If you want GOD’S light to shine in you, there are places and attitudes where changes have to be made. Some of us are so caught up in habits, practices and our possessions that there is not room for the Lord in our lives. We are more controlled by what we have and possess. The light also reveals “the pointed finger.” It is so much easier to justify ourselves while judging others. Having just gone through a difficult political season in our country, how much more urgent it is that we pay attention to our attitudes in light of the Christmas message.
Third, the point of the Christmas message is not simply that light came into the world or that it has shone into our lives, but rather, that God wants His light to shine through us. One day in a sermon the Pastor asked, “what is a saint?" A little boy looked up at the stained glass windows of the apostles and blurted out, "People who let the light shine through!"
John the apostle said, "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4) Just as in that day, not everyone today will recognize Christ as Savior. Our job is not to force the Gospel on anyone, but to give witness of the light in our lives. What people do with Christ is up to them. One of the certain characteristics of all who have the light of Christ in their heart is to wish it for others.
In this season we should be especially prayerful for people of the world who have never heard of Christ or of the God who loved them so much He sent His only Son to die on the cross for their sins. They do live in a world of darkness without eternal hope. My prayer is that the light of Christ might be reflected from us into our culture and to the extremes of the earth so that no one will ever miss the opportunity to know the One who is the Light of the World.
One day Jesus Christ will pull back the curtain of time and space, then the light of His presence, the glow of His glory and the brilliance of His splendor will radiate forth as He breaks the fabric of the eastern sky to reveal His eternal victory and claim His reward, His Church. Then we too will shine forth in the beauty of His holiness. I hope this coming transformation of His true church will include you also.