It’s been about a week since we “fell back” to Standard Time. Many mourn the loss of daylight hours and post their frustration on social media. But I’m thinking about Christmas and how we celebrate light. In some ways, this frustration is a celebration. It reveals our deep need for light and how we suffer without it.
It impacts all of us. For me, it finally got cool enough for an after-dinner walk or run, arriving home just as the streetlights came on. Now, it’s almost too dark to start a walk after dinner. I have a lighted vest I can wear, but still. It’s not fun to walk or run in the dark. Nor is it safe. The vest helps motorists see me, but I can’t see (very well) what’s on the ground before me—a lesson I learned the hard way almost twenty years ago.
I was training for a marathon and started my long run around 4:30 a.m. I had completed most of my distance and was heading back when I failed to notice an uneven sidewalk seam. Although a streetlight was nearby, nothing shone where my feet were to land. Down I went! It took weeks for the abrasion on my knee to heal—each re-injury reminding me of the importance of light in the darkness.
I don’t think it’s an accident that we have this quiet desperation over encroaching darkness exactly when we do. Every day for the next 5 weeks, we will continue to lose bits of daylight. Around December 20-22, comes the Winter Solstice, the day with the least amount of sunlight. A few days later, in this darkness, we celebrate the Light of the World!
Isaiah 9:2 is a familiar Scripture associated with the Christmas story.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.Isaiah 9:2, emphasis added
Israel was oppressed by Roman rule. Taxation was heavy with severe consequences for those unable to pay. They were looking for their promised Messiah, but hadn’t heard from God in 400 years. They were despondent. Desperate for hope, yet found none. Then (what a wonderful word—THEN), Jesus was born. The Apostle John says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:1–5, emphasis added
Read that again.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The world didn’t know it yet, but Jesus was the answer to their deepest longings, the hope of all mankind. The darkness encompassing Israel did not eclipse the Light of all mankind. It has yet to do so, and it never will.
Toward the end of His earthly ministry, during the Feast of Tabernacles (a week-long celebration which commemorated the “tent-living” of the Israelites during their 40-year exile in the desert), Jesus made a startling statement. At the end of the first day, huge candelabras were lit in one of the outer courts of the temple. At this moment, Jesus said,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.John 8:12
This darkness is not a lack of sunlight. It is darkness that obscures our “soul vision,” or our dark circumstances.
- Job loss
- Relationships with no hope of reconciliation
- Repeated bouts of personal illness
- Illness making its rounds within a household
- Illness with no healing in view
- A wandering child who doesn’t want to come home
- A child who struggles with schoolwork
- A single parent who is weary and struggling to make ends meet
- An aging parent who requires constant attention and care and may not remember who you are
- Loss because of suicide and/or addiction
- Changes in our political climate
Can you think of anyone represented by this list? Maybe you’re on it. These situations represent death of some sort. It’s what darkness is all about, really. But Jesus has much more in store for us. Regardless of our circumstances, we can celebrate light!
How Do We Celebrate Light?
Ultimately, we celebrate light by reflecting it! We get to be light-bearers of the Gospel message: Jesus is the Light of the World. He bore our sin and darkness on the cross so we don’t have to. He is our hope for eternal life.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.Matthew 5:14–15
It’s not a matter of if, from time to time, we will find ourselves in a gloomy mood—regardless of how much daylight we have. But we can (and should) still rejoice (Philippians 4:4). When we get alone with God and our Bible, He renews our hearts and minds so we aren’t focused on what we can or cannot see. Once we realign our hearts with God’s, we are fit to share His light in our corner of the world. We will be a lamp on a stand, bringing light to our homes, our neighbors, our cities, and beyond!
#1 – A Welcoming Countenance Celebrates Light
In the Old Testament, God’s face shows His favor. Read the familiar blessing found in Numbers 6 and note God’s face toward His people. With His favor, the people received grace and peace.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.Numbers 6:24–26, emphasis added
Psalm 44 is an earnest prayer from the nation of Israel for rescue from their enemies. In the first few verses, they recall God’s faithfulness to their ancestors.
It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.Psalm 44:3, emphasis added
They knew their ancestors did not experience victory because of their grand army and weaponry, but because of God’s power, His favor, and His love for them. His face toward them resulted in victory. They wanted that again.
Everything we think, say, and do (including the expressions on our faces) is an overflow of what’s in our hearts.
What does your face reflect? When people look at you, do they see kindness? For dealing with anxiety, the Apostle Paul gave these instructions to the Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8
Immersing ourselves in Scripture, focusing on what is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely, will show on our faces! People will relax in our presence and not be intimidated by us. They will feel welcome, simply because our faces are toward them.
The first way we reflect (or celebrate) light is by having a welcoming countenance.
#2 – Our Words Celebrate Light
What story do your words tell? Do you bring light into your circle of influence? We all know people who continually criticize and complain. When we are around them, we have a choice. We can either add to the darkness with additional grumbling, or we can bring light by speaking words of life and encouragement.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.Philippians 2:14–16a, emphasis added
Can you think of someone who brings light into difficult situations? You can be that person!
Another way we can use our words to celebrate light is to encourage others. Think about the list of dark circumstances. Who can you encourage? Paul was quick to thank his friends who refreshed him with an encouraging word (Romans 15:32; 1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Timothy 1:16; Philemon 7, 20).
Letting someone know they aren’t alone and that you are praying for them can mean a great deal. An email, a quick text, a phone call, even a card sent via snail mail are easy ways to send encouragement.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.Proverbs 11:25
We bring light into our world when we choose to encourage others and speak light and life into difficult circumstances.
#3 – Our Actions Celebrate Light
With our hearts and minds focused on Jesus, our actions will follow. Once again, consider the list of dark circumstances. How can you meet a need for someone on your list?
Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.Philippians 2:4
Do you know someone who would benefit from a meal they didn’t have to prepare? Can you run an errand, pick up a prescription, or get a few groceries for a friend? Do you know a struggling mom who would love a night off? Can you sit with her kids so she can have an hour or two to herself? You could simply help her fold the laundry. Does someone need the gift of your presence?
There are countless ways we can meet physical needs for people who are living in the dark. What ideas do you have?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:16
The Heart, Hands, and Feet of Christ
What a privilege to be the heart, hands, and feet of Christ. When our hearts and minds are fixed on Him, we will have a welcoming countenance. We will be intentional about the words we speak, refraining from complaining and encouraging those who need it. The bow on top is how we serve others by meeting their physical needs. In these ways, we celebrate light every day, eventually chasing away our own gloom.
How are you doing with the time change? Does the early sunset bring with it a sense of loss or despondency? Yes, it is dark outside and Christmas is still a few weeks away. But we don’t have to wait until then to celebrate the Light of the world. We can celebrate His light every day.