The Light of the World has come! His coming is what we celebrate at Christmas. From the very start, His light drew people who hungered for truth from far and wide.
Consider the magi, or wisemen. Many of us know the song, “We Three Kings,” written by John Henry Hopkins Jr in 1857 for a Christmas pageant. It was also known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are” or “The Quest of the Magi.” It is said to be one of the first Christmas carol’s written in America that became widely popular. It may even be one of your favorite Christmas carols!
Scripture does not specifically refer to kings but rather “magi” or “wise men,” and we are not given a headcount as to how many of them there actually were. But we do know they travelled for up to two years, possibly, following a light in the sky that led them to Jesus. And they brought gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”(Matthew 2:11)
I like how The Nativity movie depicts the presentation of the gifts. The first magi presents his gift, announcing it as, “Gold, for the King of all Kings. The second presents the frankincense and says, “For the Priest of all Priests.” And, after a moment of hesitation and stumbling, the third says, “And myrrh, for the Sacrifice of all Sacrifices.” Nestled in the middle of the Christmas story was the mystery of Jesus’ life; even though He was a king, He had been born to die.
In 2003, we saw the story of the crucifixion minister to thousands throughout the nation and around the world from a surprising source—Hollywood—with the release of Mel Gibson’s production of The Passion of the Christ. With the movie’s graphic depiction of what the suffering Jesus endured for the joy set before Him—our salvation—came a new realization for many of the reality of the crucifixion. For others, the movie generated questions. As the cover of one national magazine boldly inquired, “Did Jesus really have to die?”
Even with the controversy surrounding the graphic violence involved in the scourging and death of Christ, an R rating would not be sufficient to accurately portray the extent of His suffering, from the physical pain of the beatings to the emotional pain and loneliness of betrayal. Crucifixion was a form of capital punishment and considered the most humiliating and tormentful way to die. Even the word “excruciating” did not exist until a word was needed to describe the pain of death by crucifixion.
I remember reading a description of what Jesus most likely went through from a medical perspective, by the late Dr. C. Truman Davis. Each time I read it, I still get deeply gripped of heart and moved to tears with the revelation of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.
It is impossible to have a strong foundation as a Christian unless we have a revelation of the passion of Christ, the work of The Cross, and the power of the Resurrection…and how it can transform our lives today. Without that understanding, we will be apathetic believers at best. But that revelation changes everything!
In some circles and especially in our western culture, we may have heard about the Cross so often that the thought of our sins that put Him there does not still break our hearts, igniting a burning passion of gratitude and service within us. We sometimes take for granted the high cost of love that was displayed upon the Cross for us. I wonder if it’s because we have so many distractions and substitutes that put more focus on self rather than fixing our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith?
A.W. Tozer said it well: “Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction…Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.”
Leonard Ravenhill used to ask this question at the end of his notes and cards: “Are the things you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” This is still a watershed issue that should challenge our values today.
The timeliness of the message of the Cross cannot be overstated. We need the message more than ever. We need to be rekindled in heart with a renewed revelation of the work of the Cross, and the Holy Spirit revelation and power available to each of us. From Genesis to Revelation, the beginning and the closing of scripture, we read of the Tree of Life–the fullness of life through Christ, revealed in full display on the Cross, that we may have life and life more abundantly.
From the Manger to the Cross, we have the scarlet thread of God’s love and redemption revealed. The Hope and Light of the World Himself dwells among us.
It is important, during this holiday and Christmas season, and throughout the year, to reflect the Light of the World, who became man over 2000 years ago. Because He is the Word who dwells among us, we have a joy and a strength beyond human comprehension. We have peace that surpasses all understanding. May we, as the Church, let our light shine is such a way that it draws others close to the Lord, like the star over Bethlehem drew the Magi. May we be an example to those around us so they too can find their faith, hope, peace, and joy in the midst of their difficulties.
Jesus is the Word who dwells among us, and He is the Light of the World. Oh, how we need a whole lot of light in the darkness!
He Dwells Among Us
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things are made through him. And without him, nothing was made that was made. 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 1:1)
There has been a lot of discussion about what day of the year Jesus was actually born. The truth is, we may not know the exact day when He was born, but we do know that He was born, and He is the Light of the World! People around the world are celebrating, in some capacity, this Christmas season. That is why it’s important for us as the Church to reflect Christ when there’s so much attention on Christmas.
The four weeks leading up to Christmas are known as Advent. The primary themes of Advent are hope, faith, joy, peace, and love. During this season many people personally and intentionally prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of the promise of His manifest presence, and the expectation of His Second Coming.
The dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person, a thing or an event.” For us as Christians, Advent is the expectation of Christ. Because of His birth, we live in this constant presence of a Holy, Holy, Holy God. Or as my friend Alan Splawn says, “His essential presence with periodic blessings of His manifest presence made conscious to us in unique and wonderful ways.” We also have this expectation of the Second Coming of the Lord.
It’s important for us to understand that in the beginning was the Word, which is Christ. God gave us His only begotten Son. Advent is about anticipation, not only for the first coming but also for the second coming of the Lord.
Light Has Come
There are a lot of similarities between the Jewish traditions observed in Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, and Advent. Hanukkah celebrates a time when there was only enough oil to keep the lamp in the Temple lit for a few hours, but it lasted for eight full days as the Jews fought to reclaim the Temple from the Greek-Syrians. Then they celebrated the miracle God did for them.
Likewise, during Advent, we celebrate the miraculous birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. Hope came into the world as the Word who dwells amongst us.
John 8:12: says, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.’”
1 John 1:5-7 says: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Today, the world needs the light of Christ like never before. This should be an exciting thing and time for us, because God is the Word and He loved us so much that He gave Himself to us that we might live in His Word, know His Word, share His Word, and be a witness of His light to a world that desperately needs the Lord.
In a world of difficulty that seems to be covered with darkness, this season gives us an opportunity to boldly declare the miracle of God, the birth of Christ! Joy to the world, the Lord has come! We have the Light of the World living in us! It should permeate our lives and radiate from us to those around us. A little light in a dark room lights up the room.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
We can let the light of Christ shine through us in very practical ways: spiritually, physically, financially, relationally. Jesus said if we follow Him, we no longer walk in darkness, because we have His light leading us. His light shining through us will guide others out of their darkness to life as well.
No matter what trials or storms or winds come our way, we can be unshakable when we build upon the right and solid foundations.
“For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
Oh, how we need His Word to move in such a powerful way!
This is our moment to spread the Word and Light of Life to all! The Light of the World has come. He is Christ, our victorious Lord. His light in us spreads the hope of glory, which the world so desperately needs!
It is time to remember the promises and the great miracles God has done, the great miracles God is doing, and the great miracles God will continue to do. We need to share our hope, faith, joy, and peace because the Light has come into the world and the Word dwells amongst us!
By Doug Stringer