On Christmas, we celebrate the day when God became human without ceasing to be God.
Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He was laid in a manger, and in that manger he was worshipped by shepherds, and later by wise men.
They were worshipping God in flesh. The world has never seen anyone like Jesus and we never will.
Jesus is the God-man…
Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see,
Jesus, incarnate deity,
Please as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel (God with us).
That pretty much nails it.
This year, our theme as been the Christmas Lights. We started with the Light of the Star, then the Light of the Angels, and today, I’d like to think with you about the Light of the World.
The Light of the World
Here is our starting Bible verse for today:
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46, NKJV).
Jesus calls himself the Light of the World. That is a bold claim.
There’s a little background to this.
Shortly after that first Christmas, Jesus began to go around touching people’s lives in very special ways. He began mainly among his own Jewish people, but then he surprised everyone, when he expanded his reach, even to people who worshipped idols and were not Jews.
When that happened, the Bible says…
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16, NKJV).
Christmas means that the world was in darkness, but when Jesus was born, for the first time, the world was in light.
Jesus himself said this. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness.”
So I want to break all this down, and ask what it means, and really think deeply with you about darkness and light.
But I really want to focus on that amazing promise from Jesus: whoever believes in me will not abide in darkness.
That’s the Christmas promise.
So here’s the deal I have today. After I am finished with my talk, I want to help you actually do this thing that Jesus talks about… Literally to make this choice right now today.
It won’t be weird or anything, and I’m not going to single you out. Just you praying to God. Just you doing what Jesus invites you to do today.
What does the darkness represent?
When I was a kid in our church’s club, Awana clubs, I went to this haunted trail event one Halloween. It was a spooky trail that us kids would walk down, two by two. And our other leaders would jump out and scare us. Our main leader was named Karl. He was awesome. Turns out he was also sneaky. The first thing he did was to gather us together. There’s maybe twenty kids. It’s dark. We’re at a campfire, by a couple of picnic tables. Maybe 8 or 9 years old. It’s dark, windy day. And we are at… wait for it… a cemetery. For Halloween.
Here’s the sneaky part. Karl said he needed to borrow a flashlight. We’re kids. We want to help, we’re all reaching out our flashlights to Karl. We all wanted to be the one he picked. So he took the first kid’s flashlight, looked it over, and said it was nice, but not exactly what he needed. He grabbed the second eager kid’s flashlight, and pretty much did the same thing. Then he took my flashlight, and I’m thinking, oh please, oh please pick mine. But nope. Reject. He kept going. Pretty soon, he had all our flashlights… Every single one. He pulled out a box, and put in all our flashlights, and said we could have them back after the super-scary haunted trail was finished. I’ll bet that will work with cell phones… an advanced leadership tip.
So, we did the scary trail, through a cemetery, in the dark. Off in the distance there was a giant mausoleum. Tall, stone, gothic building, with wide steps and creepy huge pillars. Somebody was up there, in the pillars with a candle, moving in and out. The whole thing was chilling. I was paired up with my friend Karl Jr. We could scarcely see the trail… and a couple of times we wandered off. I was super jumpy. I’m not going to lie, but Karl Jr. and I held on to each other a few times. My heart was racing. My hands were sweaty. My jaw was clenched. There was a sharp bite of icy wind on our skin. Every fifty yards or so, somebody in mask jumped at us and screamed. Good times.
Years later, I went back to that same cemetery in the daylight. I made a discovery. In the daylight, that cemetery was beautiful. It was landscaped. Manicured bushes. Carefully edged borders. Peaceful. Quiet. It was a gorgeous place, if you don’t mind all the dead people. I just couldn’t see it in the darkness.
Being in the light made all the difference.
That is the reason for Christmas. It is the reason why Jesus came. So you and I could be in the light.
Darkness represents ignorance, error, sadness, and fear. It is the opposite of everything Christmas stands for.
- Darkness is the spiritual ignorance of not knowing God’s most important truths.
- Darkness is the error of going off the path of God’s ways.
- Darkness is the sadness of a life that has fallen for lies that are self-limiting, self-damaging, and self-defeating because they redefine God into something less than he is.
- And darkness is the fear of a little kid on a lonely path in an icy chill on a pitch black night.
The Bible paints a portrait of a person groping in darkness and has nothing to light the way.
But it gets worse, because the Bible says this person not only sits in darkness but they also sit… “in the region and shadow of death.”
There is a ticking clock on every life. And when the clock strikes zero, it’s like absolute blackness.
Aren’t you glad you came to church today?
The backdrop to Christmas is this very sad portrait of a person groping in darkness, having nothing to light the way. Full of ignorance and error (and not even knowing it), and, as a consequence, feeling the sadness and fear of the region and shadow of death.
That is the setting. That is the gritty realism of life in this messed up world.
That is the person who really really needs Christmas.
It could be that you feel this darkness today. Maybe not total darkness, but dark places inside you.
Because the darkness doesn’t just represent ignorance, error, sadness, and fear. It also represents evil. Sin.
- The moral decay inside.
- All the revenge.
- All the bitterness.
- The laziness.
- The unkind words you wish you could take back.
- The sexual boundaries you swore you’d never cross.
- The disloyalty to a person you love.
A friend just told me that many people she comes into contact with tell her, “I don’t go to church anymore because I’ve done some pretty bad things…”
Here’s another saying of Jesus:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19, NKJV).
That’s the darkness I’m talking about.
The Darkness represents every person struggling with spiritual ignorance, error, sadness, fear, death, and their own guilt and shame… and not yet finding an answer.
What does God feel for a person sitting in darkness and death?
In one word: compassion.
And because of his great compassion and his great love, on Christmas day, Jesus came as a light into the world.
He did this so that all who believe in him would not be stuck in darkness any longer.
And you can believe in him today. I want to talk you through exactly how to do that.
What does the light represent?
The light represents pretty much the opposite of the darkness. It is used in a whole lot of different ways in the Bible.]In the Bible, light represents life, the favor of God, joy, gladness, prosperity of body, soul, and spirit, protection, armor, a radiant way of life, and heaven.
Light is God’s truth, God’s path, God’s guidance, and God’s counsel in your life every single day.
According to the Bible… You can express the fruit of the light, shine the light of the Lord, enjoy the inheritance of the saints in light, and rest in the comfort of the Father of lights, because you have been brought into his marvelous light. The light of the glorious gospel of Christ has shined upon you — which is what I am doing right now.
Because this light has shined upon you, you can walk in the light every single day and dwell in unapproachable light forever, and actually love it.
For every Christmas light you see in this room, there is something good, something wonderful, something awesome that God wants to give you, is ready to give you, and is eager to give you.
Because all of these lights are wrapped up into a singular package gift called salvation.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Not death, not spooky darkness, not condemnation, not guilt, not shame, not hell, not any dark force that comes against you.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the light of the star showed the way, and the light of the angels lit up the shepherds, because the light of the world was born.
- He lights the way to forgiveness of all your sins.
- He lights the way out of whatever hole you have dug.
- He lights the way to God’s awesome comfort and embrace.
- He lights the way to get around addiction.
- He lights the way to rise above dysfunction.
- And…He lights the way to overcome depression.
- His light heals.
- His light empowers.
- His light guides.
- When you don’t know where to go, his light shows the way.
- When every path seems shut, his light shows the open door.
- When you’re at the end of your rope, his light shows you the Father’s hand beneath you and invites you to just let go.
I want to help you do that today. I want to show you how.
A couple of years ago, I was speaking a message like this one, and there was a woman who had resisted the invitation to receive Jesus many many times.
And during the invitation, it came to me to this statement: to come to Jesus, you don’t have to be ready, you just have to be willing. It’s a choice. b
I don’t know why I said it, but I just did.
And in that very moment, she made the choice.
And she told me afterwards that it was that statement that made the difference.
She said she didn’t feel ready. She had to fix up her life.
She had to have more questions answered. She had to consider her options just a little bit more.
So she didn’t feel ready.
But when I said you don’t have to be ready, you just have to be willing, the lights went on.
Because that’s what faith is. Faith is being willing to choose Jesus, even before you have every question answered… because you know enough to realize that without him, it’s just an ever deepening darkness forever.
So, in few minutes, I’m going to invite you to make that very choice.
In our main verse, Jesus said: I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46, NKJV).
He didn’t just come to bring light, but to be light. And he comes into your life. And he lights up the dark corners.
And he brings clarity as to who you really are, and what you can be, and how you can live the life you always dreamed of.
There has never been a Christmas gift like the gift God gave the world the day Jesus was born.
The Light represents Jesus Christ, and all the amazing salvation gifts he brings into every person who will receive him.
And I hope and pray you will receive him in just a few moments.
But there is one more question I want to ask and answer before we wrap it up.
Some time ago, I was talking to a guy about visiting my church for a Christmas service. This was when I was back in Chicago. He was a rough guy. Tatted up. Motorcycle gang. Leather vest. Burly, chest with curly hairs poking up. Beard. Smelled like beer. Rough guy. Had his share of fights. We were in a car repair shop, and he was working on my car.
I don’t remember how we got talking, but I said he would be welcomed at my church for Christmas.
He said, “You don’t want me. I’m not qualified. If I came into your church, the roof would fall in on me.”
So that’s the last question I want to talk about.
Am I qualified to receive Jesus or not?
The idea is that you have to fix yourself first. You have to make yourself a good person.
Change your life. Improve stuff. Clean up your act.
That’s a really common idea.
If there is even a little bit of that idea in your head, here is the last verse I want to show you today:
Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:12)
Let’s break it down. Let’s work it backwards.
This is the Bible. This is God’s Word. If you can’t believe this, you can’t believe anything.
The Saints… sinful people who have been washed clean by the Savior’s blood.
In light… the joyful and abundant life available to all of God’s people.
This means heaven. Partakers… full partners… equal shares. Not some better than others, but everybody bellies up to the bar of grace.
No hierarchy. No ladder of perfection. No double servings for some, and half a sandwich for others. Full and equal partners in the awesome gift of salvation.
You can be a full partner in heaven, with all the saints. No matter how hairy or not hairy your chest might be.
Qualified us… we don’t qualify ourselves. We don’t climb a ladder of perfection. We don’t offer our communion, baptism, confirmation, or confess. We can never be good enough for God by our own works.
When Jesus was born, he was born with a mission.That mission was to qualify you for heaven. He did this by dying on the Cross and rising again. He did this by absorbing the punishment for all your guilt and shame.
And because of what he did, The Father has qualified you… God did this for you. He did the work. He made the plan. He paid the price. He broke the sweat. He put forth the effort. He bought the gift. You can be fully qualified for heaven right now today.
That’s not me, that’s the Bible. That’s the promise God is making to you right now.
And all that is left for you is to give thanks and just take the gift.
Because Christmas means that you don’t qualify yourself — God qualifies you the moment you receive Jesus as your Savior.
This is the light of the world.
Our prayer follows an ABC pattern.
- 1. ADMIT. God, I admit I need you. You’ve been tugging at my heart. I’ve been searching for answers. I can’t find them without you. I admit I have fallen short of what you require and I need you God.
- 2. BELIEVE. I believe that on Christmas day, you sent Jesus into the world. I believe he came to bring me home to you. I believe he is your son. I believe he died for my sins. I believe he rose again. I believe he is the Savior, and today I believe he is MY Savior
- 3. CHOOSE. So right now God, I choose to trust in Jesus as my Only Hope. I choose to believe in him. I’m telling you God, as best as I can, that I’m believing in Jesus and receiving him as my Savior. And I ask you right now, because of Jesus alone, please save me.