December 25, 2016
The Lights of Christmas
Pastor Philip De Courcy
John 1:4-5

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A New Look at Christmas will help Believers regain the wonder of the Christmas season and provide encouragement to proclaim Christ-the One Who is the irresistible Light of God, granting eternal life to those that believe.

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Well look, let’s take God’s word for a few moments and reflect on the significance of this season, and for a few moments, I want to speak to you on the lights of Christmas, the lights of Christmas. I mean lights are a fixed feature of the Christmas season. It’s hard to imagine Christmas without Christmas tree lights. It’s hard to imagine this festive season without our homes or our streets being decorated by strings of light. They bless us and they brighten our day. And the thing is that Christmas lights are a meaningful part of the Christmas event. For nothing better signifies the message and the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ than lights. In fact, I would say this, that lights are more than Christmas decorations. They are Christmas declarations because you see, Jesus said in John eight, in verse 12, “I am the light of the world and he who believes in me will no longer abide in darkness.”
Elsewhere, he says in John’s gospel, “I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in me should not abide in the darkness.” In fact, his own disciple here, John, in writing the introduction to his gospel, he says in chapter one, in verse four, “In him was life, and the life was the light of man, and the light shines into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it or comprehend it.” Jesus had come to brighten and bless the world and I want to reflect on that.
In fact, if you think about this, the light of the world came at Christmas and his coming, his advent, his birth was signified with lights. What about the arrival of the wise man in Matthew two? What did they say? “We saw his star shining in the east and we have come to worship him.” What about the shepherds out on the hills of Judea not far from Bethlehem, and all of a sudden they’re surrounded by a heavenly host and a bright light shone out of the darkness and they heard the words “Unto you was born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.”
What about the fact that Zachariah reflecting on the birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ said that he was the day spring from on high? Luke one, verse 78, and as I alluded to in my opening prayer day spring carries the idea of a dawn, the rising of a sun, a new day. Light is a wonderful and an appropriate symbol for Christmas because you see light, like Christ, dispels darkness, warms hearts, adds vision, engenders life, brings hope. Now this world can be a dark place. Life can be a dismal experience. The world needs more light and that light has come through the light of the world. Christ dispels, emotional, moral, spiritual and eternal darkness. In fact, someone reflecting on their conversion to Christianity, their encountering and experiencing of Jesus Christ said this, “When I met him, I felt that I had swallowed sunshine.” Isn’t that a beautiful way to describe one’s experience of Jesus Christ?
I swallowed sunshine. In fact, when I was a boy growing up in Rothko Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, we used to sing a little song, Heavenly Sunshine. Heavenly sunshine flooding my soul with glory divine. Heavenly sunshine, heavenly sunshine, hallelujah. Jesus is mine. And I want to talk to you about the light of the world. I want to talk to you about the one who brings heavenly sunshine to the human experience. John describes him, verse nine, as the true light that gives light to every man. So let’s think about this just for a couple of moments. If light is an appropriate symbol for Christmas and the message and the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s reflect on light and what it does, and if we reflect on light and what it does, we will see a reflection of what Jesus Christ does in a life.
Think about this, what does light do? Number one, it reveals, doesn’t it? Light reveals, light exposes, light illuminates, light shows us what’s hidden and Jesus Christ has done that. He has disclosed to us and expose to us God. Look at verse 18 of John one. No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten son who was in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him that could be translated, disclosed him or exposed him. It’s a Greek word that gives us our English word acts of Jesus. It’s what a preacher does. A preacher opens a bible, takes a text and unfolds or exposes its meaning in that day in that context and brings understanding where understanding was not. And Jesus Christ has done that. Jesus Christ has given us a full and a wonderful understanding of who God is, what God is like, because you see, up until this point, no one had seen God, not in the way we saw him, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now you could stand under an evening sky and you could see something of God because Romans one tells us that the heavens show us the invisible attributes of God. You can tell from what you see in the universe, it’s beauty, it’s vastness, it’s order, it’s regularity that indeed the creator of the universe is powerful, beautiful, organized, constant, faithful. You can conclude that, but there’s no face to that. That’s not a full understanding of God, doesn’t tell us everything about him. Interestingly, God often showed himself in the Old Testament, not fully, but in epiphanies or if you go to the tabernacle of the temple, you’ll find that there was a glory cloud over it called the Shekinah glory where God’s presence was concentrated. So John is saying something very wonderful to you and me. No one has seen God at any time. Yes, we get an idea of what he’s like standing on our an inky black, beautiful evening sky and the people of Israel have seen certain manifestations of his power and his presence among them.
But you know what? He who was the begotten son who had intimacy with the Father, he has come and declared him, exposed him, disclosed him in a way that’s never been seen before because the word was with God. The word was God and the word was made flesh and that’s at the heart of the Christmas message and that’s at the heart of the Christmas moment. In fact, John will say in verse 14 that, “The word was me at flesh and dwelt among us, tabernacled among us. He will say we beheld his glory.” That’s all an illusion to the tabernacle in the temple. In Jesus Christ, God’s glory had a face to it, touched us, spoke to us, walked among us. That’s the earth-shattering message of Christmas. This is an infinite infant. This is God’s only-begotten son who has come like light and revealed the heart and the character and the will and the purpose of God.
It’s a wonderful thing. Light reveals and Jesus Christ reveals who God is. God’s not a mystery. God’s not an unsolvable equation. God’s not a distant figure. According to the Bible, God is to be found and seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ has revealed the heart of God and it’s a loving heart. It’s a redeeming heart that wants to rescue us from the darkness of our poor choices that fall short of God’s glory, from the darkness of our inherited sin, from Adam, from the darkness of sins condemnation. For God so loved the world that he sent his son, that whosoever believes in him won’t perish. I like the story of the preacher F. W. Robertson who once challenged David Hume to a debate because David Hume had given several lectures about how sufficient the light of nature was for man’s spiritual need. A man wanted to understand himself and understand the creator.
All he had to do was look inside or look around, and he said that enough that F. W. Roberson preached the sermon that contradict that and say no natural light is not sufficient. If we’re to understand God, he must disclose himself. We need light from outside of ourselves beyond what’s around us to what’s above us. In fact, they debated one day and after the debate as they were leaving the theater, Robertson was carrying a light and they were heading it into the dark and he said to his friend, David Hume, the philosopher, “You know what? Let me show you the way.” Given what he had said in the lecture, he says, “My friend, I find the light of nature sufficient.” And he opened the door, he tripped on a step and tumbled out into the darkness and the preacher came over him with his little light and he said this, “You need a little light from above.”
Well, we do need light from above and that light has dawned in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here’s the second thing about light. It attracts, light attracts, doesn’t it? There’s something fascinating about light. We’re drawn to light. The light of the lighthouse draws the ship safely home. The light of home bids us welcome as we pull into the drive. The light in the distance brings hope to the one who’s lost in the forest. And John tells us that there’s something attractive about the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 18, he says, “No one has seen God at any time, but we have seen the only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father and he has declared him.” And he says in verse 14, “We beheld his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.” There’s something glorious, magnetic, magnificent about the Lord Jesus Christ.
He’s like a light. He attracts attention and affection. In fact, you look at his ministry, he was always being followed by large crowds of people who were attracted to him because no one spoke like this man ever spoke. The miracles he did, the words he said, the life he lived. In fact, Jesus said, “If I’d be lifted up, I’ll draw all men to myself.” He’s like a light that draws people, attracts people. Certainly when the light shone on the shepherds, they left the hillside and they went to see about these things. They were fascinated and drawn to it. The magi, the wise man coming from the east, “We saw his star in the east and we have come to worship him.” Oh, my friend, the Lord Jesus is a fascinating figure, incomparable, unparalleled. People can be turned off by organized religion. They can be repulsed by the hypocrisy and scandal that marks many churches, but there’s still something about the Lord Jesus Christ that captivates them, draws them.”
He’s an irresistible light. In fact, listen to these words will move on from Robert Coleman. He was born in a stable, the child of a peasant. He grew up in an obscure village where he worked as a carpenter until he was 30. Then for three years he became an itinerant preacher. He did none of the things usually accompanied greatness. He never went to college, never wrote a book. He accumulated no wealth. He held no public office. He never traveled more than 150 miles from the place he was born. Though loved by the poor, the religious establishment derided him as a friend of sinners. He was only 33 when they arrested him, put him through a mock trial, nailed him to a cross between two thieves while he was dying. The executioners cast lots for his garments, the only possession he had. When he died, his body was laid in a borrowed tomb.
Yet 20 centuries have come and gone, today he’s the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reared put together have not affected the life of people on earth as much as this one solitary man. It’s true. He’s the light, the irresistible light come from the throne of God that shine into our hearts. Sometime ago the cover story and Time magazine was on Christ and it concluded it would require much exotic calculation to deny that the single most powerful figure, not merely in these two millenniums, but in all of human history has been Jesus of Nazareth and he still fascinates. Read his story in John’s gospel and find yourself drawn to God in human form among us, one with us that we might be one with him. Here’s another thing about light.
It’s constant. I mean the sun emits its affluence constantly. Its light is always traveling. Traveling at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, that speed would encircle the earth seven times in a second. Light is always traveling. Light is always in constantly streaming and shining. In fact, in verse five, we read of the Lord Jesus Christ and the light shines in the darkness, that’s in the present tense. You could read it like this and the light constantly shines. The light is always shining into the darkness just like the sun. Even when it’s night here, it’s day somewhere else. When it’s morning here, it’s night somewhere else. Then that will become day because the sun is always shining somewhere. It’s inexhaustible, it’s constant, and Jesus Christ is that. He’s the light that shines into the darkness. He’s the true light that gives light to every man coming into the world.
He uses nature. He uses conscience. He uses the scriptures to reach into our lives with the hope of the gospel, with the saving, strengthening sufficient message of God’s inexhaustible grace. In fact, look at how John describes Christ. If you want to take this idea of constancy. “Of his fullness, we have all received grace in the place of grace.” Now, the metaphor might change here from the sun but the sea, if you’ve stood at Newport Beach or Long Beach or Huntington Beach and you’ve watched the ocean come in, wave upon wave upon wave, constantly unremitting never stopping, and John is saying that’s what Jesus Christ wants to bring to a life. He’s an inexhaustible source of grace and hope and love and patience and kindness. He will touch our lives again and again and again. He’ll keep on transforming our lives until fully we find ourselves perfect in the presence of God in an endless life.
Listen to Martin Luther who kind of says this for us. “The sun is not dimmed and darkened by shining on so many people or by providing the entire world with its light and splendor, it retains its light intact, it loses nothing. It is immeasurable, perhaps able to illuminate 10 more worlds. I suppose that a hundred thousand candles could be ignited from this one light and still this one light would not lose any of its brilliance, thus is Christ our Lord.” See, he’s taking the image of the sun and he said, “Just as the sun emits its influence and lights every corner of this world up, it has enough energy and power to light up a thousand worlds.” And Jesus Christ is inexhaustible. He can save you, he can keep you. He can take care of you and he can land you in heaven and he’ll give you a life forever.
He’s like light, constantly streaming, constantly sharing his presence and love. Ernie Pyle was a renowned correspondence in the South Pacific Theater during the Second World War, a Pulitzer Prize winner. He had dodged a bullet literally in Okinawa and survived, but towards the end of his life and his untimely death, he became rather despairing. Here’s some of his last words. “There is no sense to the struggle, but there is no choice but the struggle, it seems to me that living is futile and death the final indignity. I wish you would shine any of your light in my direction. God knows I have run out of light.” There are many souls who have run out of light, but Jesus Christ is the light that won’t go out and he wants to stream and share his kindness and love and saving power in each of our lives. Here’s another thing about light.
It generates life. Light generates life. Look at verse four. “In him was life and the life was the light of man and the light shines into the darkness,” that also could have been translated because there’s a double definite article in there that the light was the life of man and you know that life is promoted by light. In fact, if the sun was to be blocked out, our world would rapidly deteriorate. If you’ve been in a forest that’s thick, you’ll know that what’s beneath your feet is not much plant life but moss because the light’s not getting through and plants aren’t growing and life isn’t being stirred up and sustained. In fact, I have an interesting tree in my front garden, a ficus tree. I love it, but it spreads its roots all over the place and messes with my pavement. So I’m deciding what to do, dead or alive.
That’s kind of where we’re at. But every year a kind gentleman comes and trims our trees and our hedges and does a little bit of mulching for us. And I was saying to this guy who’s connected to our church, my ficus tree is always kind of lopsided. It kind of leans in a certain direction and after a year, one side of it has kind of grown out further than the other side of it. And I asked, “Hey, what’s going on?” And he said, “It’s chasing the sun.” This is the side of the tree that gets the most sun so it grows faster and it grows larger because life is promoted and produced by the sun. And Jesus Christ is that. He’s the life and the light of the world. I want to say this Christmas morning, Christ who has made all living things once you to experience a new dimension of life that only can be experienced in a relationship with God.
Remember what Jesus said in John 10, verse 10, “Stand in this gospel. I have come that you might have life,” you’ve got physical life, but you don’t have spiritual life. The Bible says you’re dead in your sins. You don’t have a relationship with God. You’re not a Christian by natural birth. You’re a Christian by new birth. There must come a point at which you engage, encounter and put your faith and experience Jesus Christ who will bring a dimension of life that will make you fully alive to the God who’s the author of life. There are plenty of people who have got life but are still searching for life. They’ve got physical life, they’ve got all the material blessings one could wish for. Just go over to West Hollywood and you’ll find them, but they don’t have life abundantly. But Jesus Christ has come so that we can enjoy life as God planned it, God designed it, but sin has interrupted and destroyed.
In fact, the word life is to be found. 39 times in John’s gospel, light promotes and produces life and Jesus Christ wants to do that in each of our lives. My dad told me about a preacher he used to sit under in Northern Ireland, a bit of a character, so much a character that he used to drive about in a hearse. That was his car, a hearse. And on the side of the hearse, he had painted these words large for everybody to see. We have passed from death on the life. He used the hearse as a kind of bully pulpit to share this message. And when you come to know Jesus Christ, you pass from a state of death where you’re not in a relationship with God and you’re facing eternal darkness and hell to a place of life and eternal happiness.
Okay, here’s the last thought. What does light do? And in thinking, what light does we think about what Jesus Christ has come to do and be. Light reveals and Jesus Christ has revealed God and his loving heart toward us. Jesus Christ didn’t come to rub it, he come to rub it out. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but the world through him might be saved. Jesus Christ is attractive. He’s the most tarring figure of human history, and he continues to affect and transforms lives all over the world. And he can do it for you this morning and he can give you the gift of life because he’s the light that stirs life up.
Here’s the last thing about light. Light overcomes the darkness. It reams it rules. Now, my version says in verse five that the darkness did not comprehend it. It can be translated and you’ve got another version, overcome it. And I want to run with that thought. You see, light overcomes darkness. Darkness never overcomes light. If you really think about it, darkness is the absence of light. Darkness is the absence of light. You’ll only find darkness when light retreats. And look what we read in verse five. He’s the light that shines into the darkness and the darkness didn’t overcome him. Light always comes out on top. In many ways, darkness is the absence of light.
Listen to these words as we wrap up from Tim Chester in his book, the one True Light, “Light simply dispels darkness by its presence. Darkness does not naturally extinguish light.” You can’t have a torch dark that casts a beam of darkness into the light. Now you can have a torch light that casts a beam of light into the darkness, but you can’t go down to Walmart and buy yourself a torch dark that sends out a beam of darkness into the light because light always comes out on top. And that’s the image that John presents us of the Lord Jesus Christ. The darkness and the shadow of death was cast over his birth as wicked Herod tried to extinguish his life and his light. The religious leaders conspired to kill him, which they eventually did and hung him on a cross and tried to extinguish his light and he was laid in a borrowed tomb.
But three days later, the light extinguished the darkness and he come out victorious over death and darkness. Jesus Christ is the light that does not go out. And you know what? He wants to come into your life and dispel the darkness, the black inky sense of guilt, the shadowy corner that life has painted you into, the specter of the place of outer darkness called hell. Jesus wants to bring the hope of the gospel and overcome all of those darknesses in your life. In fact, did you ever notice where the Bible ends? Revelation 21:23 in the new Jerusalem, in the new Earth, in the new heaven? It said there is no night there for the lamb is the light. There will be no lamp posts or streetlights in heaven, you know that? Because Jesus is the light. There’d be no power stations, no electric boards, departments. Jesus is the light, and the Bible ends with Jesus overcoming the darkness and he wants to begin that work in you this morning.
A painter painted a bleak picture of a winter scene. It depicted a storm sweeping across the countryside and over in the corner of the picture there was a cabin. But as he stepped back from his picture, it all looked so cold and it all looked so dark and it all looked so dead and hopeless. But he changed all that with one small stroke of his paint brush. He took the tip of his brush and he dipped it in gold paint and he touched one of the windows in the cabin, and the golden glow from that cabin transformed the picture of the storm sweeping across the countryside and the golden glow of the home that brought hope and welcome and a sense of security in the middle of all of that, Jesus Christ wants to paint your life with the golden glow of his love and his forgiveness and his hope and his patience.
I hope you’ll open the door of your life and your home and let him in and he’ll put light in there. He’ll put light in your home and he’ll put light in your heart and he’ll prove to you that he is the light of the world and he who follows him and believes in him will not abide in the darkness. Amen. Christmas lights, they’re not just a decoration, they’re a declaration of who and what Jesus Christ is. Let’s pray and then we’ll sing.
Lord, we thank you for this service. Thank you for the opportunity to sing our way to the throne of God and express our thankfulness for the one who left the glories of heaven for this dark and dismal world to bring some light to those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. We thank you that he overcame the darkness. We thank you on Calvary’s cross. He paid our sin. He experienced our hell. He absorbed the judgment of God, and three days later, he walked out of the valley of the shadow of death telling us that the light of the world has come and overcome the darkness. I pray, oh God, that for those who have run out of light, that they might run to Christ and find him to be the light of the world for these things we ask him pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.