First Sunday in Advent November 30, 1997
2 Corinthians 4:6
68, 58, 72, 70
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of Jesus, Who came to bring light into a sin-darkened world, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Today is the first day of Advent, and the Christmas season is officially upon us. We all have fond memories associated with this season, and I’m those memories are different for every individual. However, if we could sit down and compare our favorite reminiscences about Christmas, I think we’d find a common denominator turning up in a good many of them…light. Isn’t it true? Lights on the house, lighted decorations on the Christmas tree, lighted candles, the Star of Bethlehem, light shining out of church windows at evening Advent services. So much of Christmas has to do with light. I particularly recall a little lighted wreath that my parents always had in their front window—the lights were all different colors, and they rotated in a crazy fashion. It was kind of a silly thing, really; but I remember I could never wait to pull into the driveway and see it. When I saw that light, I really knew I was home!
The fact that we associate Christmas with light is perhaps more appropriate than you realize. For the Child who came to earth that first Christmas was the very embodiment of divine light, as the Apostle John tells us, “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” Jn 1:9. Our text for this morning speaks of another kind of light, in fact the light that enables us to receive our Savior at Christmas time, and at every other time of the year. It’s not a star. It’s not a bulb on a tree, and it’s not the colored beams issuing from a stained glass window…it’s the light of faith. Join me this morning as we cosider the theme…
You’ve heard the expression, “cult of personality.” That’s what happens when people become followers of a certain leader simply because of his charisma, his strong, magnetic personality, rather than because of anything he says or stands for. A lot of preachers in America fit that description. They push themselves to the forefront, and promote themselves rather than God’s Word. Well, a lot of preachers in first century Corinth fit that description, too! But the Apostle Paul wasn’t one of them. “For we do not preach ourselves, he said, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Cor. 4:5.
No, Paul wasn’t like that, and he could prove it. What was it that made it impossible for Paul to preach himself? What was it that compelled him to preach Christ, and Him crucified? Our text for this morning tells us: it was the light of faith. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The very same faith that Paul was trying to promote, he shared with his hearers. And in denying that he was preaching himself, Paul gives us a powerful description of just what an awesome thing faith is.
When the earth was “without form and void”—when everything was in darkness and chaos—God began His mighty work of creation. And do you know what the first thing He created was? Light! It’s interesting that the sun, moon and stars weren’t created until fourth day…but light was there at the very start. And what did God use to create light? Nothing but His Word. He spoke, and it was done. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.”
In our text for today, Paul uses this picture of creation to help describe the awesome miracle of faith. What a great parallel it is, when you think about it! Consider…
Before the light came, there was only darkness. Have you ever been in absolute darkness? I mean, where you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face? I was once, when I toured an underground mine, hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the earth. It’s scary. And it’s a good comparison to the natural condition of man without Christ. Scripture describes the unbelievers as blind, people who are walking in darkness. Without Christ they are helpless, groping around in the gloom. On their own, they haven’t got the slightest chance of ever finding God or escaping their sin.
…And such was our condition, dear Christian friends, until God shined the light of faith in our hearts. It’s true that the Star of Bethlehem hailed the coming of the world’s Savior. But the light of that star would mean nothing without the light of faith. Don’t forget—Christ’s redemption could never have become your own had the Holy Ghost not shined the light of faith in your heart. The Bible reminds us, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” That’s why we confess, with Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, nor come to Him; but that the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel and enlightened me with His gifts.”
The Holy Ghost has enlightened me with His gifts. I just love that expression, and I think it captures some of the true wonder that is ours at this Advent season. One night last week we turned on our outdoor Christmas lights for the first time. And I’ll never forget the look of absolute awe on the face of our children as they peered out the window at them. It was as if we’d unveiled some sort of magical treasure right before their eyes!
Likewise, when God called you to faith, He turned on the lights in your heart. He opened your eyes to see the great treasure that belongs to you in Jesus Christ. With the light of faith turned on, you can see clearly the righteousness that is yours in Christ; it is a perfect righteousness, because all His life long Jesus kept the Law perfectly in your place. We read in Galatians, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” 4:4-5.
With the light of faith turned on, you can see the precious blood Jesus shed for you on the cross; and that is indeed a great treasure, for it covers even the worst sins you’ve been guilty of. Scripture says, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
What is the value of a clean conscience and a good night’s sleep? Many millionaires would give their fortunes for it…but that treasure is already yours in Jesus Christ, as Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Rom 5:1.
What would someone pay for an insurance policy that promised absolute security for every aspect of their life, no matter what happened? Surely it would be worth a fortune. Well, with the light of faith turned on you can see…this treasure is yours also. For is it not the almighty God who promises us in His Word, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isa 41:10. How powerful is the light of faith! What an absolute fortune of blessings that light reveals to our eyes!
God performed a powerful miracle when he kindled the light of faith in your heart. And what means did He use to perform this miracle? Just like at creation, He used His almighty Word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” He caused you to hear and believe the same Good News that the angel spoke to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day a Savior…” He causes that faith to grow every time you hear the word of the Gospel preached here in God’s house, and every time you read your family Bible at home. Whenever you hear God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will be stoking that fire in your heart, compelling you to admit, “Yes, this child in the manger is my Savior. His death on the cross really does mean that my sin has been put to death and abolished. His resurrection on the third day is the guarantee of my eternal life!”
Finally, let’s remember that light not only illuminates…it attracts. I recall one dark night years ago in my family’s home in Lynnwood; I looked out the back door of our house and saw one of those powerful Klieg spotlights sweeping the sky, circling around in the clouds. Even though it was miles away, the beam was sharp and distinct. It seemed to cut the darkness like a knife. Well, I was curious. I couldn’t resist getting in my car and driving downtown to find out where that light was coming from. Turned out it was the grand opening of a music store. And the light was evidently serving its purpose, because there was such a traffic jam of curious people that it took me forty-five minutes to make it back home!
…That’s one of the qualities of light, of course. It is very attractive to people. And the darker the night that surrounds it, the more attractive it is. Well, the world we live in is a very dark and sinful place indeed. All the more reason, then, to let the light of your God-given faith shine forth the more brightly, especially at this Christmas season. Why not be a Klieg light yourself! Let the people around you know, with your words and your actions, that for you Jesus lies at the heart of this season. Show them just what you believe: that in Christ, God has reconciled the whole human race to Himself. To a friend, co-worker or relative who may still be struggling in the darkness of sin, there is no greater gift you could possibly give. And isn’t that, after all, the most important job you’ve got in this life? For it is Jesus Himself who tells you, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mat 5:14-16. God grant that the light of our faith may so shine forth at this season, and at every season. AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.