“he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NIV)
When I was a child, one of my father’s favorite activities at this time of year was to have us get in the car and drive around to look at everyone’s Christmas lights. It was the advantage of living in a suburb until I was ten You could drive around for a long time, see a lot of homes with lights and not really go more than a mile or two from your house.
And there were a lot of lights. Now it may be that I’m looking back with a child’s eyes and missing reality, but it seems that in those days everyone had Christmas lights up. Big multicolored lights around their homes. More inflatables today, to be sure. But it doesn’t seem there are quite as many, but it’s still enjoyable.
It wasn’t until later that I realized one of the reasons my dad liked looking at all of the lights was because of his satisfaction how much better his looked. He loved putting up all of the lights he had. The house, trees, nothing was spared.
But it wasn’t because he was trying to draw attention to himself. He hated any spotlight being put upon him. No I think he did it because he truly enjoyed Christmas. And he wanted everyone else to enjoy it as well. Maybe some of that came from growing up during the Depression in a large family. Gifts and lights weren’t always plentiful.
But I have to think some of it came from his working nights for so many years. Most every day in the winter he would go to work when it was dark and come home while it was dark. He worked in a factory with few windows. He could go almost the entire week without seeing the sun. can you imagine the sun, light , being absent from Sunday until Friday? I’ve wondered if his love for the lights came from his lack of light in the winter.
Light does make a difference doesn’t it? This past Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent and many churches lit the second candle of Advent. Many of us also lit the second candle in an advent wreath in our homes. You know, to be honest two candles don’t throw out all that much light. Even though we’ve doubled the light output from a week ago, it’s not very much. We can’t see all the details in the room and we are hard pressed to read by two little candles.
I’ve noticed something about those candles, though. Even though they don’t give off much light, its enough to push back the darkness. The room can be enveloped in darkness. It can be heavy and oppressive. But there is a point where the darkness does not enter. Those two small candles say, “You can only come this far, no further.”
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who is the light of the world. But maybe this year you are having a hard time celebrating the light because your life is so full of darkness. It could be the darkness of not having much money. Family issues, your own inner demons. Maybe just the darkness of having a lot of stress in life and not compounding it with the stress of the Holiday. And the darkness can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to see anything else.
But just because the darkness in your life is oppressive, it doesn’t mean the light isn’t there. If you look you will see it. Sometimes small, sometimes dim but the light of Christ is there. Jesus has come to overcome the darkness in our lives and in the world. Oh, it doesn’t mean Jesus just automatically makes every problem go away. But he does limit just how far the darkness can come. It gives us hope. Can there be anything more hopeful than even a candle, or two suddenly lit in a dark world? It gives us joy. Has there ever been a heart captured by darkness that hasn’t found joy when light comes?
We all have a choice in life. We can look at the darkness in life and be overwhelmed. Or we can choose to look at the light of Jesus pushing the darkness away and bring us hope. May the light of Christ continue to bring you joy in this Advent season.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><