Light is such an important part of the Christmas season, even in our scriptures. God and Christ are portrayed as light illuminating the paths of righteousness for those who seek. Christ was born into a world that was run by violence. The Jewish people were subjugated by the Romans and a violent unstable despot was put in charge to rule, a man not from the lineage of David, so many of the Jewish people would not recognize his authority. The customs and extravagances of the Greek and Roman peoples were forced into the temple of the Lord and many people were lured in by the idols of these cultures.
Politically Israel was in ruins. The average person struggled with debt, famine, and hardships from illnesses. There were so many things that could land you into slavery, illness, and ostracism, that the average person lived their lives in fear. Judgmentalism ruled the day and compassion for the most part was a rarity. So when we see in Isaiah that the people lived in the land of darkness, this is what is being referred to. They needed someone who would bring the light of God back into their lives. They needed to feel the compassionate leadership of a Savior who would teach them once more about the value of their relationships with God and each other.
Christ was that promised light. Yes a star shone in the night lighting the way to the cradle. But the true light that came into the world on Christmas Eve was the light that Christ brought forth to a world with a desperate longing.
This light showed a way of life that was quite different from the lives people were leading. And still to this day the light of Christ shines forth to bring light into the darkness of our world. This light encourages us to move from the judgmental ways of society to the compassionate and caring ways of God. The lights we see here today from the bulbs on the tree and the garland that adorns our balcony to the candles shining bright each are a symbol of the light of Christ still alive in our world.
When we pass the light from person to person at the end of our service tonight, we are symbolically committing ourselves to sharing the light of Christ not only with our immediate neighbor but rather with all those who are in need. We are committing to sharing the light of Christ each and every day by the way that we take care of one another offering warmth, friendship, and a helping hand to all the children of God. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks”. Our purpose is to allow the light of God or the knowledge of God to shine forth in our lives through the works of our hands, works that help to remind people of the hope, love, joy, and peace promised so long ago and promised to us once more with the second coming of Christ. We are called to live into Christmas each day, not the stress, the gift buying and giving, not the aggravating tangle of lights, not the holiday songs, not the cards. We are called to live into the true meaning of Christmas, the celebration and acceptance of the light of God in our lives and in our world once more. We are called to live hopefully of the promised peace to come. We are called to share that hope by loving freely and giving openly of our compassion. And in so doing, we continue the message of Isaiah to the next generation reminding people of Christ’s warmth and love to come once more to a world in need. So this Christmas Eve I leave you with the worlds of Isaiah as inspiration for your year to come.
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of
deep darkness —
on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9).
We no longer need to walk in darkness and neither does our world for tonight the light of Christ has been born anew in each of you and it is up to us to share it with the world.
(Based on Isaiah 9: 2-7)