Shine, The Light of the World – Dec. 16, 2018

Kenner had introduced the child-sized ovens in 1963, and within a few years, every girl had to have one.  My sister was no different than the rest. In truth, I wanted her to get one. I wanted one of those small round cakes with the delicious chocolate frosting. Old Saint Nick must have got her letter and decided she was on the nice list (Although I might have been able to dispute that in a court of law), but I wouldn’t.

So on Christmas morning it arrived in all its pale-yellow glory. Tammy mixed up the yellow cake batter, and slid the pan into the oven. Then in just 12-15 minutes, we had a piping hot cake. After it cooled, she frosted it and we ate it. It was sweet, wonderful and maybe a little gooey in the middle but we didn’t care. It was one of the best presents she ever got.

It wasn’t until years later that we found out, ‘all that baking magic required’ was an ordinary 100 watt light bulb. A little ‘light, heat and time’ – and The Easy Bake Oven left us amazed and entranced.

There has never been a time when ‘light’ didn’t capture mankind’s attention and imagination. Think about watching a glorious sunset or sunrise or what about watching a flash of lightning, during a storm. Have you ever sat back at a campfire and watched the flames flicker? It is no wonder some people worshiped the sun, – ‘tried to capture the light’ – or wanted to control fire. 

Light is beautiful and mysterious, like God.

A careful study shows that most religions of the world have an understanding of light in association with God. Christians, like their Jewish ancestors, have always associated light with God. In fact, we call ‘Christmas time’ – ‘the season of light’.

Our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah, known as the festival of lights, this time of year. Hanukkah lasts for 8 days and it is a reminder of the defeat of the (Seleucid army) Syrians by the Maccabees and ‘the rebuilding and dedication’ of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

During Hanukkah, the Jewish people light a nine branch Menorah or candelabra, to celebrate the triumph of enduring faith over evil. 8 candles represent the days – and the 9th middle candle, which is the highest, is the light of God that never goes out – and it is used to light the other candles.

During Kwanza, some African Americans light seven candles to symbolize and celebrate life’s seven principles. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate Diwali by lighting lanterns and oil lamps. And Muslims celebrate ‘Allah’ or God as the source of light that inspires, motivates and guide’s ‘God’s People’.

Some Quakers ‘may not promise to pray for you’ but they will ‘promise to hold you in the light’. And the list goes on, from one faith-based religion to the next, but it doesn’t end there.

Scientists will gladly tell you about the importance of light. It helps all things grow and is even responsible for creating a joyful mood in humans. The UV rays in sunlight help the body produce Vitamin D.

Light is, in fact energy. There is power in it, electromagnetic energy and it moves in waves at 186,282 miles per second. We need light to see and light cables are the fastest way to send information.

The Bible tells us that the first command God gave after creating the heavens and earth was, “Let there be light”. (Genesis 1:3) Before He created light, – the world was formless and empty. It wasn’t pretty, there was no life, no hope, and no peace. All was chaos. Light helped bring order to our world.

Light brings everything into focus and helps us find our way. It also reveals ‘every flaw and truth’. It illuminates and penetrates ‘every darkness’. Just a little light ‘is like’ a laser beam cutting the darkness open.

A few years back, Cindy and I had a chance to traveled to Kentucky to Mammoth Cave, National Park. We had a chance to take a couple of tours, miles below the earth’s surface. The caves were amazing. Some passages were very narrow, others were wide-open and massive. But at one point ‘on the historic tour’, the Ranger wanted to show us ‘the power of light’ in the dark caves.

So, they turned off all the lights. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. It was breath-taking and a little frightening. Then, the ranger lit a lighter. It was amazing how one tiny light, cast such a huge presence. We could see again. One tiny light – made all the difference.

You might recall, it was the light from a burning pillar that led the people ‘into the wilderness’ and out of the bondage of Egypt. Later, Moses knew he was in the presence of God when he saw a burning bush that was not consumed. And the Eternal Flame of God’s presence was to be lit in the Temple in Jerusalem ‘at all times’. It was the job of the priest to keep it from going out. 

But nothing could ever prepare us for the light that was coming. Since the fall, mankind lived in and out of the shadows. We have known real darkness; a darkness we might ‘even say is described as evil in the soul of some men’. And of course, all have sinned and all are fallen. Yet, the Glory of God occasionally breaks through. And ‘the true light of God’ was about to come into the world.

The Apostle John writes, “In Him, Jesus, was life – and that life was the light of mankind. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

So ‘He is – the true, first and genuine light of mankind’. The highest light,…is the brightest light.

Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the World.” And it began so simply; in a dimly lit stable, with only a meager lantern. ‘Then a star appeared’ – and Shepherds arrived – and the light grew. I sometimes wonder how the light looked ‘reflected in the eyes of that child in the manger’.

Herod wanted to ‘put out his light’ and he failed. Others tried to ignore the light of Christ, they wrote off his parables, his miracles and his healings. Jesus was a light ‘many did not want to see’. The glare was too intense. It revealed things they did not want to see.

Look at how his light revealed the darkness in all of our souls. And so, they crucified him and thought they had overcome his light. But it was not to be. His glory was revealed in the resurrection. His light, the light of Christ, cannot be extinguished. And the Good News is that it reaches the darkest places, in the souls of mankind and he chooses to forgive and show love, despite our shameful welcome.   

Where there is doubt, uncertainty, fear and shame – God brings peace, hope, joy, and love. And Jesus comes not as a consuming fire – but as a refining fire. (Malachi 3:2) He shines the brightest hope because he comes ‘as a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace’. (Isaiah 9:6)

Revelation tells us that there is a time coming, when there we be, ‘no more Darkness or Night’ – because Jesus is the Morning Star that shines forever. There is no darkness, no night in heaven. (Rev. 21:25)

Have you ever watched the beginning of the Olympics and seen the runner carrying the flame? Did you ever wonder where that tradition came from? Among the earliest ancient Greeks, the runner that won the race was not the man who crossed the finish line first – in the shortest amount of time. The winner of the race was the runner who crossed the finish line in the least amount of time ‘with his torch still burning’.

The Greeks believed that running, in and of itself ‘meant nothing’. The goal was to run with purpose. Let me just ask, are you running ‘the race of life’ just to get finished – or do you run with purpose?

In the Movie “Freedom Writers”, based on a true story, some High School students got to meet the woman who attempted to save the life of Anne Frank. (You may have heard of Anne Franks Diary). This woman, who was a girl and a Dutch citizen, wanted to protect a Jewish family from the Nazis.

She was invited, many years later by a teacher, who saw her students fight battles everyday in their own backyards. In this scene, Miep Gies explains what happened to her. Watch…

Video Clip: 1:26:43 – 128:43  (Scene 12)         

You see, just a little light can make all the difference.

Jesus Christ is ‘the light of the world’ and He calls us to be children of that light and to reflect his Good News into the dark corners of the world around us.

“Light”, said Augustine, “reveals other things and its own self, it opens healthy eyes and is its own witness.” In other words, the truth of God reveals the heart.

It is Christmas and it is time to let the light of Christ shine through you! May His sparkle, gleam within your soul, and may He bring you ‘true light that never fades’.

Love like you have never loved before. Embrace the light, joy, hope, and peace of the season. Because what we need today more than ever is the love of God which makes this holiday season great!

Your assignment is…to Behold the Glory and Light of Jesus this coming week. In the midst of the rush for Christmas, never forget the reason for the season, Jesus is the light of the world. Then pass along the Good News. 

Even ‘a little light’, as seen in a smile or a moment of patience can go a long way!!

Amen.