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LIGHT OF THE WORLD: A Christmas Worship Meditation

30 Nov

November 2012

Preview of “worr.org-images-File-2-12CANTICLES.pdf” copy

1. GOD IS LIGHT

LIGHT… what a marvelous creation it is! What a work of dazzling beauty! It is a thing of profound mystery, which concepts such as electrons and watts cannot even begin to explain.

LIGHT speaks of radiant energy.
of brilliant glory.
of unblemished purity.
of dynamic power.

That’s what light is like.
And . . . that’s what God is like.

And so the Apostle John, in seeking a suitable metaphor in the physical realm to encompass some of what God is, turned to the imagery of light:

 God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

2. LET THERE BE LIGHT

God created all things in the beginning. And on that very first day of creation we read that He brought into being that which is so reflective of Himself.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

He created the sun and the moon, the light-bearing bodies;
He created the earth, warmed by the light;
He created the animals and plants, energized and sustained by the light;
And He created Man—to have dominion over the world of light God had created.

“And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7)

God’s angels joined in praise at the wonders of all God had made—His creation was full of light.

3. THE DARKNESS OF SIN AND THE PROMISE OF LIGHT

God’s creation was full of light; and His supreme creations, Man and Woman, reflected His image. They were given the freedom to choose the path of light and obedience, or to seek their own way. They chose to rebel against their Maker, and found themselves plunged into darkness—not physical darkness, but spiritual darkness: separated from God by willful disobedience, they were engulfed in guilt and shame, dead in their own sins. It was the way of their own choosing.

But God loved the human beings He had created, and was not content to let them suffer the deserved consequences of their own decision. The story of the Bible is the story of God acting to restore the broken relationship between Him and man, to again shine the light of life into people’s hearts.

The Old Testament tells of God’s preparation for that great work of reconciliation.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2)

At the time of man’s fall, God in His mercy had hinted at an answer to the problem of sin (Genesis 3:15), a cure for the illness now in man’s soul, a light to shine into the darkness of man’s heart. Now He began to gradually reveal a glimmer of hope in the darkness of human history.

“[Abraham,] I will make of you a great nation . . . and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)

As the Old Testament progressed, that hope on the horizon grew brighter and brighter, as a new day approached. God formed a people, and then a nation, with a unique relationship to Himself.  He worked through that nation of Israel to further His program for mankind. And yet it became clearer and clearer that God was preparing to send a very special Person. Appropriately, this Person was often described in terms of light. In the book of Numbers, for example, we find the prophecy:

“I see Him, but not now;
I  behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come forth from Jacob,
And a scepter shall rise from Israel.” (Numbers 24:17)

As the history of the nation of Israel progressed, the promises of a Redeemer to come multiplied. The horizon continued to grow brighter as the dawn approached. The prophet Isaiah jubilantly predicted the glorious coming of God’s ambassador of light:

One who would shine forth God’s glory;
One who would bring spiritual light to a dark world;
One who would deal with sin in a climactic way;
One who would bring new life, new hope, new perspective to men and women;
One who would rule over all the earth.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

4.  THE DAWN OF REDEEMING GRACE

And so the level of expectancy and longing rose as the horizon of history grew ever brighter with the promise of the Light Who was to come.

Finally, in what the Bible calls “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), Jesus Christ, the “Sunrise from on High” (Luke 1:78) blazoned forth over that horizon. God entered the world of humanity in the Person of His own Son; His new day of redemption dawned upon an anxious world. That dawning we call “Christmas.”

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light, and usher in the morning! (Johann Rist)

Wake, awake, for night is flying, the watchmen on the heights are crying;
Awake, Jerusalem at last.
Midnight hears the welcome voices, and at the thrilling cry rejoices:
“Come forth, you maidens! Night is past.
The bridegroom comes; awake, your lamps with gladness take.”
Alleluia! Prepare yourselves to meet the Lord,
Whose Light has stirred the waiting guard. (Philipp Nicolai)

The Birth

The New Testament tells us how it all happened:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

It came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

The Star of Jacob, the Sunrise from on High, the Light of the World (John 8:12), the Son of God—Jesus Christ—entered the world one silent, holy night.

The Shepherds and the Angels

It is no coincidence that wondrous displays of light accompanied the birth of Jesus Christ, the True Light.  A blaze of angelic glory brought the first announcement of the arrival of the Christ child. As Luke tells us:

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:8-14)

The Magi

 A beacon of light in the heavens summoned wise men from the East to Bethlehem.

 “We saw His star in the East and have come to pay homage to Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

 Simeon

We see the theme of light once more as Simeon in the temple thanked God that he had been allowed to see . . .

“ . . . Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
And for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)        

V.  JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

This special baby grew into manhood and then entered into a public ministry of about three years. Jesus Christ called Himself “The Light of the World” (John 8:12). He was the fulfillment of all God’s promises of light in the Old Testament; He was the hope for those trapped in the darkness of sin.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)

Finally, however, He was rejected even by His own people—the darkness of men’s souls resisted the light, and He was put to death on a cross for claiming to be who He indeed was: the Son of God, the divine Light come to a desperately needy world. He was crucified; and it seemed as though the darkness had won.

But in a blaze of glory, Christ rose from the dead on the third day, and through His followers the message went forth into the world that Jesus had atoned for sin on the cross, that He had risen triumphantly in demonstration that God’s righteousness had been fully satisfied, and that the light of salvation and new life was available as a free gift to all who would acknowledge their darkness and come to Jesus, the Light of the World.

There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:9-12)

Jesus Shines Still!

He still shines into the hearts of all who let Him. His light and warmth can comfort and soothe and transform the most wretched of conditions. No life is so empty, no situation is so bleak, no circumstances are so hopeless, that He cannot shine in and bring new life, new hope, new reason for living, forgiveness, and a personal relationship with a loving heavenly Father. The light of Jesus shines brightly in this world. He invites all who have never done so to come to Him, to come to His light, by opening their hearts and receiving His salvation as a free gift through “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Lord the Light of Your Love is shining, in the midst of the darkness shining,
Jesus, Light of the World, shine upon us; set us free by the truth You now bring us.
Shine on me, shine on me.

Lord I come to Your awesome presence, from the shadows into Your radiance,
By the blood I may enter Your brightness, search me, try me, consume all my darkness,
Shine on me, shine on me.

Shine, Jesus, shine; fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze; set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow; flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth Your word, Lord, and let there be light. (Graham Kendrick; CCLI #47316)

We Reflect Him

Jesus shines in this world through those who belong to Him.True Christians are to reflect His light, to be like Him as He shines into all the dark corners of our lives and changes us. May we who are His, faithfully reflect His glory and light to those around us who need Him also.

As we gaze on Your kindly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story.
Shine on [through] me, shine on [through] me.

Shine, Jesus, shine; fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze; set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow; flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth Your word, Lord, and let there be light.

Let Us Adore Him 

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

Light speaks of radiant energy,
of brilliant glory,
of unblemished purity,
of dynamic power.

That’s what light is like.  And . . . that’s what God is like.

Christmas is the celebration of the bursting forth of God’s glory, purity, and holiness into human experience, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is the season of light, because it is the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Star of Jacob, the Sunrise from on High, the Sun of Righteousness, the Bright Morning Star, the Lamp of God’s Glory, the True Light.

Christmas IS Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

O come, let us adore Him!!

SEE OTHER CHRISTMAS STUDIES
IN WORSHIP NOTES 1.12, 2.12, 3.12, 4.12 and 5.10 HERE, and in 6.12 HERE.

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1 Comment

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Christ and Worship, Christmas, Light

 

One response to “LIGHT OF THE WORLD: A Christmas Worship Meditation

  1. Jane Gray

    December 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you. So very encouraging and true. When all around seems to push in and overwhelm, Christ is still our true light.

     

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