Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Light

There are a lot of things that make the Christmas season special. One is the lights. All the lighted Christmas trees and displays are such a contrast to this time of year when the days are short and darkness comes early. I’m kind of sad when it’s getting dark outside while I’m still at the office. But along the way home I see houses with lights, and I pull into my driveway with our house lit up and our Christmas tree shining in the window. It’s just another thing I love about Christmas! 
As a kid in the early 1970s my mom and dad would drive the family car on Gay St. and Henley St. to let us see the lights on Christmas Eve and drive in all the neighborhoods where we knew people lit up their houses. I did the same with our kids; one of Drew’s first words was “lights” (but he couldn't say the "L" sound. He said, "sights." He was enthralled by them. Great memories.

This is the first electrically-lit 
Christmas tree. Edward Johnson, 
an employee of Edison, displayed 
the pitiful (by today's standards) 80-
light tree at his home in Manhattan.
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of lights as Christmas decorations originated? According to tradition, using the evergreen tree was started by Boniface in Germany in the 600s, and was apparently hung from the ceiling as a reminder of the Trinitarian God who gives us everlasting life. The first lighted tree recorded was by Martin Luther in the 1500s who used candles to symbolize Christ as the light, and Christians who, as children of God who live in a dark, sinful world "among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15 KJV). Of course, fire and dry trees don't make the the safest combination, and because it was primarily a German tradition, only relatively few in England and America adopted this practice. It was Thomas Edison who, for the Christmas season of 1880, decorated his New Jersey laboratory in order to display his new invention, the electric light bulb, amazing those passing by on the trains. The publicity stunt worked, and established electric lights as a Christmas institution. 

So, why lights? Simple. Because Jesus is the light of the world. He said it himself several times: Here’s one in John 8:12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Prophesies in the OT equated the Messiah with light. One of the better-known examples is Isaiah 9: 
2The people who walked in darkness 
   have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
   on them has light shone.
…6For to us a child is born,
     to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
That's what's quoted (in part) in the New Testament:
Matthew 4:16 
the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.
He’s the light of the world who came to our darkness. Yes, he probably wasn’t born in December. No matter. The symbolism is important. When the world was dark and without hope, Jesus—the light—came.

That’s important foundational stuff for us to understand for the next passage as we continue in Luke. It’s in chapter 11: 

33“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Many miss the meaning of these words. I have! Some people take this to mean that you can look into someone’s eyes and see their soul. Others think this means that you should be careful about what you look at, and by looking at sinful things you can bring darkness to your soul. 

Neither of those describe what Jesus is saying here! What’s he saying? Let’s unpack it.

33“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

We’ve seen Jesus use this language before. He is the lamp of God that is shining light. He IS the light of the world. God has, through Jesus, let himself and his truth be known. Hebrews 1:1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature… He is God in the flesh. If you see Jesus, you see God. No one human being in history has been more universally known! No matter how hard enemies of Christ have tried to stamp out his light, he has continued to shine! That’s what we celebrate at Christmas: John 1:4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
The first Christmas is when God “lit the lamp” for the world to see. Perhaps that’s why he gave a star over Bethlehem guiding the wise men from the east; or why he allowed the explosion of glory and light when the angels announced to the shepherds. draw in those pagans from the nations, and invite those poor shepherds to the manger. That’s why we have Christmas lights—they remind us of the light of Christ shining in a dark world, overcoming the cold and gloom of the longest nights of winter with the joy, glory, brilliance, and beauty of God who invites everyone!

Now that we understand that, what is Jesus saying?

 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.

Jesus is giving us a metaphor: just as a lamp fills a room with light, your eye is what lets light in to your body. Think: If your physical eyes are closed, your body is effectively in darkness. 
Your eyes (as Jesus intends) is kind of like windows to a car: if they are clear (that’s actually a closer rendering of the word translated, “healthy”) then light gets into the car, but more importantly, the driver has understanding of his surroundings and can appropriately stop or turn or speed up and not be in an accident. If the windows are painted black, there’s no understanding of what’s around, and the driver is effectively living in darkness. That’s what Jesus means. Have you ever been to a cave and they turned out the lights? It's pitch black. You are afraid to move. It renders your whole body incapacitated. Blindness (darkness) paralyzes. When your eye is healthy (clear), the light enlightens your mind, enables your hands, feet, everything. Your whole body is enlightened, filled with understanding. Get it? 

 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Jesus seems to suggest that we can determine whether we live in the light (with understanding) or live in the dark. He says we need to care a lot about this. We choose to live spiritually blind or not. We are all born spiritually blind and we need only open our eyes to the light of Christ. But it is also true that God must give us sight. These ideas are not contradictory! A great example of God’s power and our responsibility regarding spiritual blindness is found in Jn 9: 
1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 
Jesus said this man’s physical blindness had a purpose! To illustrate something...spiritual.
…5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
Jesus healed the man born blind. Something that has never happened in our medically advanced time! But he asked him to do go wash in a pool. 
When the man could see, I wonder if it changed his life? Of course it did! He didn’t need a cane, he could get a job, he didn’t need someone to guide him, he didn’t injure himself as often, he could run, he experienced color, light, beauty, knowing what his loved ones looked like. It staggers the mind to think of how his life changed for the better!

When you open your eyes and receive Christ the light, you will understand the world so much differently. He becomes the lens through which you understand God, yourself, the whole world! We call this your WORLDVIEW. A Christian worldview. Everyone (whether they know it or not) has a worldview. A toddler believes he's the center of the world. A secular humanist believes that the material world is all that exists. A Buddhist believes liberation from suffering comes through self-purification. Someone with a Christian worldview understands who they are (sinner saved by grace), who God is (holy, sovereign, all powerful, loving), where everything came from, where it’s going, and that there’s a plan for the universe that God is bringing about perfectly. Christians believe their primary reason for existence is to love and serve God. Love other people, care for God’s world. A personal worldview is a combination of all you believe to be true, which becomes the driving force behind every emotion, decision and action. Yes, surrendering to Christ and his word enlightens your view of everything! And as you pursue him, you will experience peace and contentment, regardless of your physical or financial circumstances. But there’s more. When Jesus says, 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, He is also speaking of the literal wholeness we will experience ultimately in heaven, where we’ll meet him face-to-face, see him as he is, and be like him in our resurrected, eternal state. Like the old song, “we will understand it better by and by.” But more than just understanding, “When we’ve been there 1000 years bright shining as the sun,” we will experience glory, beauty, ultimate satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy never ceasing!  

So what? 

1. Know the light of Christmas. Open your eyes and receive the light this Christmas. Believe in Christ. Receive him. Surrender! Then you will have light by which to understand and live in this world and unlimited light/beauty/understanding in heaven. Yes, he is the light.
In John 12:46, Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”   
Not everyone will. John 3:19-20 says, 19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  2 Corinthians 4:4 says: In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  
The appeal I make to you is to repeat what Jesus said: be careful lest the light in you be darkness. Don’t be spiritually blind. Open your eyes. Surrender to him.

2. Make known the light of Christmas. Jesus is the light in you. Show him!
Daniel 12:3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, [will shine] like the stars forever and ever.
Matthew 5: 14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

How are you going to share the light this Christmas?

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