Summary: Lights and Christmas go together like peas and carrots. The message series reflects on the candles of the Advent wreath. The message concerns the Christ candle at the center of the Advent wreath.
All the Pretty Lights: The Light of Jesus
John 1:1 – 14
For our guests, we’ve been talking about all the pretty lights of Christmas here at FUMC, Monroe for the past four weeks. We’ve talked about the lights of Christmas, their origins and meanings, and we’ve lighted a light on the Advent wreath to symbolize the character and nature of Jesus Christ. We lighted the candle of hope, the candle of love, the candle of joy and the candle of peace because we believe Jesus embodied each of those characteristics, and tonight, we lighted the center candle—the Christ candle—to acknowledge that the Christ is the Light of the world.
We’ve adorned our sanctuary with all these pretty lights, and you’ve been blessed to witness yourself the (dare I say) magic of electronic lighting with colors and images bouncing off our sanctuary walls this evening. Both beautiful and amazing! And, each one of us have come tonight, and I hope when you came in you received your own candle, and as worship concludes tonight, we’ll each light that candle and the light from our collective candles will illuminate this sanctuary, and I suspect it will be far more beautiful than any of the other lights we’ve experienced thus far. We long for that moment of lighting our candles and singing Silent Night. That moment will be the crescendo, the climax, of the Advent season. It’s what we’ve spent an entire month moving toward. It will represent the Light shining in the darkness—the Light the Apostle John wrote about so long ago, Jesus Christ.
Here’s the interesting thing, though. When this night is over, all the pretty lights come down. We unplug them, take them off the tree, off the eaves of our houses, out of our yards (or wherever else we’ve placed them this holiday season), and we pack them up. They need only remind us for a little while. We can enjoy all the pretty lights for a season. They go back into storage. Even here this evening, we’ll sing Silent Night and when it’s over, we’ll extinguish our candle, walk out, deposit it in a box on our way out the door. We’ll relish the feeling and remember the beauty of the scene, but the light will still be out.
I just want to say one thing tonight—don’t let your light go out! Yes, put your candle out. We don’t want to have to call the fire department, but just because the candles go back in the box, and the lights go back into storage, doesn’t mean the light stops shining. The light shines, Jesus lives, because, as John says in the Gospel passage, the darkness can never extinguish it.
We need light. John sets up the contrast between light and darkness as a theme that will run throughout his Gospel. John tells us Jesus life is the light for all people. Without light we would be in a mess. Think about this. If the sun were to suddenly burn out, we would have a mere eight minutes before the Earth would slip into a permanent deep-freeze. I’m told in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s overcast most days, lots of people suffer from light deprivation, which results in mood swings and depression. There’s even a scientific name for this problem: “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or S.A.D. People suffering from S.A.D. have to set up special light panels in their homes and get heavy doses of illumination in order to be happy. We need light. We can’t physically survive without it.
We need another kind of light, too. Our souls depend on the light of God. In this spiritually darkened world, God uses us as His witnesses to point out the Light. The Light has always been here. The Light has never gone away. But people who are in sin or despair sit in darkness, and cannot see the Light. That’s where we come in. John tells us Jesus is the Light, and even Jesus said He was the light of the world (John 8:12). But, I remind us that in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus is the true Light from heaven, but John reminds us tonight that we are witnesses of the Light. And, we are, aren’t we? Isn’t that what our presence means tonight? Are we simply here because we want to feel good about ourselves? Are we here because we think, “It’s Christmas Eve. This is what we do on Christmas Eve?” No, we’re here because we’ve witnessed the Light. The worst thing in the world that can happen is for us to walk out of this place tonight and not carry the testimony of this evening into a dark, hurting world.
I’m struck by verse 8 of tonight’s Gospel reading. There, John the Apostle calls to our minds John the Baptist, and he calls John the Baptist a “witness to the Light.” He says John the Baptist was not the light, but rather a witness to the Light. That’s our role, too. We’re witnesses. The word John the Apostle uses means “to bear testimony, to declare distinctly.” But, what does it mean to bear testimony and declare distinctly the Light of Jesus Christ in this dark world? How do we keep the candle burning? May I suggest briefly what it means to me?