It’s interesting to consider that we observe Christmas during the darkest season of the year. And this daily darkness can be very discouraging. Waking up under the stars and watching the sun set at four in the afternoon can put many of us in quite a dismal mood. However, several of the things we New Englanders look forward to and are thankful for this time of year are anything but dark. On these short, cold days we’re grateful for the many sources of light surrounding us - fireplaces, candlelight, lamplight, Christmas lights. The lights we experience this time of year can be both wants and needs; both delightful and necessary.
But these lights can be even more meaningful than providing us with the beauty we love to adore, the bright we need to see, and the warmth we need to live. How can this possibly be? Because they can be reminders to us all of the first Light of Christmas. They can reflect the joy the first Light of Christmas can supply. They can be symbols of the vision the first Light of Christmas can provide. They can point the way to the victorious life the first Light of Christmas can give. What is this first Light of Christmas? Well, before we discuss the Light, let’s acknowledge the darkness.
Is there any doubt that we’re living in a dark world? Is there any doubt that we reside in a world full of disappointment, injustice, hatred, addiction, fear, sadness, hopelessness? If we’re honest with ourselves, then no, there is no doubt that a darkness pervades our world, and that people are constantly seeking a light that will overcome it.
There are countless ways people have tried to fill their dark worlds with unsatisfying light. We’ve tried to permanently light up our existence with: Financial stability. Marriage. Children. Great homes. Cool toys. Fun friends. Healthy bodies. Career achievements. Solid communities. Amazing memories. And can these things I just mentioned provide light in a dark existence? Most definitely! Except...not permanently, and not definitively. All of the things I just mentioned will also disappoint. They will fail to meet your expectations. They will fail to provide consistent and constant joy. None of these lights are capable of providing you with the light that you’re looking for; the light you need to overcome all of the darkness around you.
My wife and I recently bought a football that lights up for my son’s birthday. When you hit the ball, it lights up so you can play catch in the dark. We thought it’d be a great gift, and for the most part, it was. It worked really, really well. That is, until it turned off mid-flight and introduced itself to my face! We trusted that once the football was turned on, that it would stay on, but this was evidently not the case.
There’s a connection between this football and the lights we hope will fulfill our lives. Just like my kids and I trusted that this ball would keep glowing with the light we needed, we’re all susceptible of putting our misguided trust in the things of this world to provide us with what we need.
Let’s switch gears for a moment, from football to fishing. Not long ago I read an article on fishing lures, mainly because I’m terrible at using them. The article was quite fascinating. It explained that choosing the color of your lure can be very important. The purpose of a lure is to be shiny and attractive to fish, and depending on the level of brightness of the water, different colors and different metals reflect better than others. If a fisherman can match a certain color lure with a particular brightness of the water, then more than likely he’ll catch a nice fish!
Unfortunately, we can all be a lot like deluded fish. If an object, or a person, or an ambition shines just the right way for us, especially if we’re hungry for something to please us, we can get hooked. There are many deceptive lights out there that long for us to see them as good for us; lights that will direct us to “happiness.” But in the end, these deceptive lights lead us down paths that just become darker and darker. Whether they’re unhealthy relationships, unhealthy objects, unhealthy acts or unhealthy aspirations, they are certain to lead us away from the joy we’re looking for. And the struggle with deceptive lights is becoming greater and greater every day as our dark world is turning more and more to lures that will hurt us rather than help us. Lures that people say are good and acceptable. Lures that people say will brighten your days and fulfill your desires. Like a fish to a lure, or a moth to the flame, we will certainly not end up finding a life of freedom if we choose to turn to these deceptive lights.
So where do we find the light we’re all looking for in this dark world of ours? The light that can give us a hope that never disappoints; the light that will never deceive? The light that can give us a life of freedom? A life free of the darkness of loneliness, emptiness, and grief? A life free of what this dark world is trying to hide in its shadows so that people won’t believe it exists...a life free of something called sin? Where can we find this seemingly impossible light that can even give us a life free of death?
Almost two hundred years ago, a young girl named Minty Ross had a lot to learn. Her father was the smartest man she knew, and he taught young Minty all that he knew, especially about nature. He taught her about plants, fishing, farming, and geography. He taught her how to predict the weather by watching the sky and the behavior of animals.
Minty’s father was very knowledgeable about the nighttime sky, too, and one of the most important things that Minty’s Poppa ever taught her was about one particular light in the night sky - the North Star. How to find it. How it was unchangeable. How it could be depended upon for always being in the same place. How you could trust it to give you direction, and help you find your way in darkness.
The reason why learning about the North Star was so important to Minty Ross and her father is because they were slaves. The North Star was the light all slaves knew could lead them to the freedom from their bondage. As a young adult, Minty’s name was changed to Harriet Tubman. With all of the wisdom she learned from her father, and having the North Star to look to for direction, Harriet not only found her own freedom, but she also helped over a thousand slaves escape bondage!
The North Star was vital in helping Harriet Tubman find freedom in the darkness, but the most important light in her life was her Lord, the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. When given credit for helping slaves, Harriet responded, “It wasn’t me, it was the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ and He always did.”
Despite having the help of the North Star, and the knowledge of her father, and the abolitionists of the Underground Railroad, Harriet knew that the only Light that could offer and provide her with an eternal life of freedom - freedom not only from man, but from sin and death - was Jesus Christ.
Many years ago a baby was born in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. On the day He was born, a host of angels sang to Him, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those on whom His favor rests!” This peace that came to earth, this first Light of Christmas, is the light we’ve all been looking for in this dark world of ours! He alone can give us a hope that does not disappoint, that does not deceive. His light alone can lead us to a life of freedom. His light alone can shine the way to a life free of darkness, a life free from sin, a life free from death.
Harriet Tubman once said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” We are all slaves to the darkness of this world - to the sin and death that separates us from the love and freedom of God. If you’ve been looking for a light to guide you out of the darkness of this world, but perhaps haven’t understood until now that you’re a slave to the darkness of sin and death, then today I plead with you to believe in Jesus, the Light of the World, and embrace His unconditional love, and let His light shine your way to freedom. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, to save us from the sin and pain we struggle with every day. Jesus died for all of us by taking all of our sins with Him to the grave, and He defeated death for all of us t hrough His resurrection from the grave.
To those of you who have already been saved by the first Light of Christmas - your Wonderful Counselor, your Mighty God, your Prince of Peace - continue to treasure His gift of freedom above all else. Keep looking to His light for your guidance. And do all that you can today, and every day, to shine the Light that He has given to you.
As we look upon the Christmas lights of this dark season, and as we search for light in the dark seasons of our lives, let us hold close to our hearts the magnificent truth that Jesus Christ was born unto us a Savior, the Light of the World. Let us hold close to our hearts His life-changing, life-saving words: “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. ”