Advent Reading Day 27 – The Light of the World.
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 all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1
Tonight all around the world followers of Jesus from most traditions will light the final candle of the Advent season – The Christ Candle. Then that flame will be passed among attendees, illuminating sanctuaries in homes, cathedrals, warehouses, stadiums, and small country churches with candle lighting. It is a night where everywhere it is proclaimed that Jesus is the Light of the World. It is a time of beauty and contemplation as we watch the darkness of a sanctuary transformed by the light shining into the darkness. It is one of the moments of richness of liturgy even within churches that do not have a rich liturgy as we see with our eyes the effects of what we proclaim in our minds and with our mouths.
However, I wonder what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World? What does that mean for most of us who proclaim that message? If we were to judge from the way most of us go about the other 364 days of the year, then the heart of the message would seem to be that Jesus’ light refers to morality, or to being against certain people groups and their sins, or to being against a political stance, or the light to my business success, or the light to my personal happiness or the light to prove how my church has the only true doctrine. While we all gather around the Light of the World on Christmas Eve, it seems that we interpret His light into a narrow stream the rest of the year which somehow reinforces my beliefs, my experiences, my thoughts, and my desires. It becomes easy to imagine myself sitting in the light while the rest of the world is in the dark and if only Jesus’ light could reach them then they could become just like me.
What if tonight I celebrated the message of Jesus being the light shining in the darkness the way I believe that John intended in these opening lines of his Gospel and the way that the Prophet Isaiah had foretold. There is a radicalness in this message – one that can bring transformation to every one of us. Consider Isaiah’s words about the coming of the Messiah.
“ 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.” Isaiah 11
When Isaiah envisions the coming of The Messiah he is forthtellling of The One who will bring about justice and righteousness (not merely a morality word but rather a word referring to justice) and peace. There was this radical transfer of power that was going to occur when The Messiah came. Notice that corruption would not be part of this new kingdom because This One would judge by God’s rule rather than by what He heard or saw. This was a radical message to a people who were living in true darkness 24/7 with persecution and injustice all around them. He would bring about the invasion of God’s rule into the present darkness which would change everything. There would be the end to corruption, truth would be known, the needy would be dealt with rightly, the poor would find justice, the oppressors would finally find judgment, and the kingdoms and systems of this world would be judged. It was a message of hope. And, it was a message that was fulfilled, while in a different way than what was expected.
If we fast forward to Luke’s gospel in Luke 4 we read of Jesus proclamation of Isaiah 61 where He begins with “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me.” This would echo back to the words of the prophet of what The Messiah had come to do. This would echo the words of Isaiah 61, but also recall Isaiah 11 and other prophecies telling of the One who was to come – The One on whom The Spirit of the Lord was resting and had been given wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord and delight in that fear of The Lord. Then we hear Jesus proclaim those revolutionary words which change everything. We hear those revolutionary words which show that the kingdom of darkness is being defeated and The Kingdom of God is winning. We hear those words that there is Good News for the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the captives, release of the oppressed and the proclamation that God’s favor is here. These words that go out are not simply some future hope that we get when we die, but rather the hope for the world then and now. These are the words of light that declare that The Rule of God is breaking in and is defeating the enemy as well as the places where he has ruled – our hearts, our minds, our systems, our governments, our societies, our religious systems – everything is being transformed by Him as The Light coming into the darkness.
Tonight as you see the Christ Candle lit, take a few moments to consider the force and the power which Jesus as the Light of The World carries with Him. Consider how His light broke into the darkness then and how He continues to today. Consider how His Revolutionary Kingdom breaking into the here and now changes everything and brings about justice, mercy, righteousness, freedom, release, Good News, healing, wholeness, favor, correction, challenge and peace for the individual and for society…for the rich and for the poor.
Then, as the light is passed to you to light your candle during candlelight, consider how you as an agent of The King and His Kingdom can demonstrate His justice, mercy, righteousness and peace in the world around you. Consider how you can be about the King’s business in demonstrating His Kingdom through Good News to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the captives, release to the oppressed and the proclamation that God is FOR people rather than AGAINST them. As your candle ignites, may something also ignite in your heart – the passion of Jesus living in and through you – the passion to allow Him to be about His business through you with you as a conduit of His mercy, compassion, justice and grace – His Light into the darkness around us.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for this celebration of your coming. Tonight, with anticipation we come to a night of worship of You. Tonight, I pray that you would ignite my heart with Your heart. Clear away the distractions just a little bit longer – all the events to come tomorrow with our Christmas celebrations with family – in order to truly grip my heart with the radicalness of Your coming and what it truly means to follow You. Amen.