Right there in primetime, Charlie Brown and his friends are singing, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
In the mall, Christmas carols play for all to enjoy. One of my favorites beckons us:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord
These are invitations to worship. They are invitations broadcasted on national television and at local gas stations. To them we can add the announcement of the angels to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Christmas presents us with an opportunity to invite others to see what God has done and to come and adore His Son.
Yet, Christmas presents a conflicting reality. The reason for the season isn’t cheerfully welcomed by all. Some hear the invitation of the “O Come, Let us Adore Him,” but pass by it like another storefront at the mall. Some see the invitation of “O Come All Ye Faithful” like an offer of some Claxton’s Fruit Cake. Why is this? Sure, some live in principled unbelief and have their own message to share at Christmas. However, for many people, Christmas comes upon them like it came upon the people of Galilee: they sit in darkness, sometimes lonely, and often weary and discouraged (Isaiah 9:1-2). Frankly, the joy that characterizes the birth of our Savior exposes the brokenness in our lives.
Christmas reminds us that we are broken people who live in a broken world. For some, Christmas reminds them of what they don’t have—a family, a child, a spouse, etc… For others, Christmas blinds them with all the things they hope to get. Still, others are hardened to what Christmas offers, perhaps from being hurt in the past, weary because of the present, or despairing over the future. Christmas comes whether things are going well or getting worse—people lose their jobs, loves ones die, relationships are on thin ice, sickness comes, and old wounds resurface and gossip spreads as families gather around the table.
In the midst of this brokenness, a great light shines…
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Isaiah goes on to tell us that this light will shine in the birth of a child, a son (Isaiah 9:6-7). A son whose name will be Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Interestingly, according to Matthew 4:12-17, the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-2 comes not at Jesus’ birth but at the beginning of his ministry. His move to Capernaum, by the sea, in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali is said to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-2. However, it appears it is not merely his moving to Capernaum that fulfills the dawning of light on those who sit in darkness. Rather, Jesus’ preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God is its fulfillment (Matthew 4:17). The light of Christ shines in his birth, but especially in the sharing of the good news it brings.
We too bear the light of Christ in the midst of darkness when we celebrate and share the birth of Christ, a child born in Bethlehem and yet the savior of the world!
It is this good news, this great light that our world so desperately needs as it sits in darkness. The message we bear is particularly good news because Jesus not only was born in the midst of this darkness, but he lived and served in the midst of it. It was to those sitting and living in darkness that he served, healed, and preached. In Timothy Keller’s Hidden Christmas, he points to a Dorothy Sayers quote that captures this truth so well:
The incarnation means that for whatever reason God chose to let us fall…to suffer, to be subject to sorrows and death—he has nonetheless had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine…He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He himself has gone through the whole of human experience—from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death…He was born in poverty and…suffered infinite pain—all for us—and thought it well worth his while.
Our world still sits in darkness. Jesus is still the light of the world. If he thought it worth his while to come, we ought to think it worth our while to share. The only way the light penetrates the darkness now is if we go into it like our Savior bearing the light of his name.
But what does that like for you this Christmas season? How can you share the light of Christ this Christmas? Here are four simple but powerful ways to delight in and declare the light of Christ:
- Turn on your light: have people in your home.
- Bring others to see the light: invite your friends and neighbors to church.
- Shine the light: connect the hope of the gospel to the brokenness of people’s lives.
- Enjoy the light: Reflect on and sing the truths of Christ’s birth, redemption, and return.
How are you shining the light of Christ this Christmas?