First Sunday in Advent November 28, 1999
55, 609, 343, 62
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Here ends our text.
In the Name of our Savior, the Babe of Bethlehem, Who comes into our hearts again this Advent season, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
In a certain town lived an old professor of natural history, who like to have a bit of fun with the local pastor. Every so often he’d stop into the parsonage for an evening of discussion and argument. He was a humanist, and he needled the pastor by arguing that human reason could discover everything there is to know about God simply by looking around at the wonders of nature. According to him, the Bible was completely unnecessary. Well, late one evening, after a similar discussion, the professor was getting ready to leave for home. The pastor offered to turn on the porch light, so he could see his way down the front steps of the parsonage. “No,” said the professor with a twinkle in his eye, “I don’t need any artificial light. The natural light of the moon and stars will guide me safely on my way.” Unfortunately, that particular night happened dark and overcast. So the professor took a painful tumble, ending up in a bruised heap at the bottom of the steps. As he hurried out to help his friend up, the preacher couldn’t resist a wry comment: “Perhaps you could have used a light from above after all…”
Nature—the created world we see around us—does shed a lot of light on the subject of God. It tells us that God exists, and that He is a powerful and wise God. But there is one very important thing that we can never learn from nature, and that’s how we can be saved. In order to illumine this all-important subject, God sent His Son Jesus to earth almost two thousand years ago. It is His arrival that we again celebrate this Advent season, and that is the subject of our text for this morning. Join me in considering the theme—
One thing’s for sure—man cannot give us the light we need the most. Have you ever had to stop by the side of the road on a dark night to fix a flat or look under the hood, and found that you didn’t have a flashlight? Or that you had one, but that it didn’t work? You know something’s wrong with the car, but there’s simply nothing you can do about it! If you only had a light—!—It’s a frustrating feeling. Well, ever since man fell into sin the garden of Eden, human beings have been in just such a situation, spiritually. St. Paul describes the say natural man feels about his sinful state: “They show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.”—Rom 2:15. Man knows That something is amiss, and he knows that something has to be done abut it. He feels guilty about the things that he has done wrong, but he’s in the dark about how to fix the problem. Out on the highway, there’s always the chance someone might stop and lend you his flashlight. I’m afraid that in our spiritual life, however, it’s not that simple.
Some people think they can fix the flat in the dark, with no light to aid them. They think they can work out their salvation for themselves. The Jews of Jesus’ time thought this, and it remains a popular solution right down to our own day—“Be a good, law-abiding citizen, give to charities, contribute some volunteer time to your community, let people see you going into church once in a while—Live an honest life! What more could God ask of you?” The answer is, a lot more! The Bible tells us the “The wages of sin is death.”—Rom 6:23. And that means any sin! Even the smallest sin! Jesus commands in Matthew 22, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”—27, 39. Now the longer you think about that, the more clearly you’ll see just what a tall order that is. Sinful human beings are bound to fall far short when they try to live up to God’s standards by “being a good person.”
Perhaps the worst part about the whole situation is that, by nature, man doesn’t really want to see the light at all! Paul reminds us, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” The Psalmist confesses, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”—Ps 51:5. We are sinful, and deserving of God’s condemnation from the very first breath that we take. Contrary to the opinion of optimistic psychologists, human nature does not lean toward good, but toward evil. One look at a newspaper these days ought to be enough to convince you of that. Better yet, one look at your own thoughts and actions should prove it to you beyond the shadow of a doubt. Isn’t it true?—Our sinful flesh would be much more comfortable if we could simply stay in the dark and ignore the problem of sin. A little further along in the Gospel of John we read, “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. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”—John 3:19-20.
Then there are those people who prefer to pretend that sin doesn’t exist. That’s like someone who has a flat tire and thinks that, if he sits in the comfortable darkness of his car long enough, maybe the problem will go away. Likewise, the world will be satisfied if you choose to remain in the darkness of sin. You’ll fit right in—as long as you don’t accuse anyone else of being sinful. Let’s just everybody not get too upset about the sin that we see in ourselves and others. Let’s pretend that it doesn’t exist. Or let’s just pass over it lightly because, after all, nobody’s perfect. Everything will be OK if we just remain in our comfortable darkness and pat ourselves on the back and say, “It doesn’t really matter what religion a person is anyway, as long as he tries to be a good person. After all, aren’t there many different paths to the same God?” NO. THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY, ONE TRUTH, ONE LIFE. THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE TRUE LIGHT IN OUR LIFE.
The True Light in our life certainly doesn’t lie within ourselves. There was a man on the scene in Israel before Jesus began His public ministry who thought he had a handle on just what that True Light was. He was a peculiar man. He lived in the deserted places far away from the cities; he wore a coat of camel’s skin and ate wild honey and locusts. He was considered a pretty strange character, but he had a special purpose to his life: to tell people about the True Light. Our text says, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
John the Baptist had an important mission—he had to tell people to get ready, because the True Light was coming. There was a way out of their darkness. Now John was a mighty man, and “great in the sight of the Lord.” Jesus once said of him, “What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’ For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”—Luke 7:26-28.
But for all his powers, and the importance of his mission, he himself was not that light. And he was the first to admit it! There were some Jews of his day who had been waiting for that True Light to come into their lives. Men sent by the Jews asked John whether he was the One they had been waiting for. He replied, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”—John 1:26-27.
No, John himself couldn’t be that Light, as little as any mortal person can be the True Light in our lives. How happy John was, though, when the True Light finally did appear, and he was able to point Him out to the people! The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”—John 1:29-31.
Jesus Christ, the God-Man, that perfect, sinless Son of God, sent by the Father to be a ransom for many—He was and is the True Light in our life! Jesus teaches of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”—John 8:12. Finally! A cure for our darkness! As Isaiah says, “…A light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”—Isa 42:7. No longer must we muddle along in the darkness of our sin, looking vainly to ourselves or to other men for some sort of light. For the sake of the perfect life of Jesus, and the awful price of our sin that He paid for with his blood at Calvary, God has removed our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
We no longer have to bear the awful consequences of our sin—Jesus did that for us. We are simply handed a ticket that reads, “Admit one to eternal paradise.” What is our price for that ticket? Free of charge. Paid in full by the love of God in our Savior Jesus Christ. The world around us, in its darkness and ignorance, wants to tear up that free ticket and fling it back into the face of God with a contemptuous laugh. Our text says, He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. For those who reject the True Light, it will become a powerful searchlight, to seek out and expose their sins, and the wretchedness of their attempts to save themselves by their own works.
…But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Jesus is that True Light in your life. He is a brilliant Light that not only brightens your darkness, but eliminates it altogether! Oh, your sinful flesh you still have with you, but the consequences of your sin have been completely blotted out. Though your sins were as scarlet, Scripture says, Christ has made you as white as snow. We who, according to our flesh, were the children of darkness, have been reborn through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Him we have received the adoption of sons, and are made co-heirs of eternal life.
Have the sorrows of life been weighing on you recently? Have the crime and corruption, the wickedness and the darkness of this present evil world made you afraid to open a newspaper anymore? Well cheer up! It’s the time of year for us Christians to rejoice! Because the lengthening days of winter only serve to remind us that, in the midst of this world’s darkness, we have a Light! As a brilliant, burning candle coming into a dark room, our Savior is coming into our hearts once again this Advent season. That Light comes to guide us, to illuminate our lives, and to bring us at last into the light of the everlasting day. John 1:4-5: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
When the time for Jesus’ crucifixion was approaching, He told His disciples, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”—John 12:35-36. As we enter another Advent season—as the Christmas lights begin to appear and twinkle on the homes and the churches—may we live in and reflect that sparkling True Light of our Savior. Let us work while it is day, seeking first the kingdom of God, and making the spreading of that Light our highest calling. May we ever pray with the hymnist:
Abide with heav’nly brightness,
Among us, precious Light;
Thy truth direct and keep us
From error’s gloomy night!
—God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.