Summary: Seeking, seeing and sending the light of Christmas
THE LIGHT OF CHRISTMAS - PEACE
It was a dark night during the winter of 1864. At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare. Late one evening one of Lee’s generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event. Seeing the lights the Northern camps got nervous and sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebratory fires. It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well. To honour the occasion Grant ordered that bonfires should be built. For miles on both sides of the lines fires burned. No shots fired. No yelling back and forth. No war. As long as the lights burnt there was peace, celebrating the birth of a child. Unfortunately It didn’t last forever. Soon the fires burned out and once again the darkness of night and war took over.
The good news of Christmas is that in the midst of a great darkness there came a light, not just a temporary flicker but an eternal flame that burns to this day. There may be times in life when we see the events of the world and the challenges in our own lives, we experience darkness but Christmas reminds us that whatever happens in life, the light still shines.
Today we are continuing in our series looking at Christmas through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah. Today I want us to look at another scripture that is often used at Christmas time;
Isaiah 9:2-6 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. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
December 21st is the winter solstice which in the Northern Hemisphere is the longest night of the year and the shortest time of daylight in the year. It is interesting that this is when we celebrate Christmas. During the darkest days of the year, Christmas pierces the darkness with light. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is all the lights. It seems that Christmas lights up the world. Even here in Kuwait if you go to the malls the stores have put up their lights.
Light was important in the first Christmas. The angels appeared in light and sent the shepherds to Bethlehem to see Jesus. The wise men saw a bright star in the sky and they followed it to where the Saviour was born. It was that light that lead the way.
Light and darkness is a major theme in the Bible. The Apostle John frequently in his letters used the analogy of light and darkness. He starts his gospel saying;
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 12:46 "Jesus said, `I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in darkness."
Both these last verses talked about walking in darkness. Have you experienced complete darkness? It can be very scary. It makes walking dangerous and you can quickly can loose your way and become lost.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.