Isaiah 49:6 “I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
I believe my neighborhood is a safer place at night this time of year. Most of the year the sidewalks are fairly dark–there aren’t many street lights in our subdivision. Now the whole place is lit up with colored and flashing lights, even flood lights in some yards. Unfortunately, many of my neighbors may not know why they are putting up all these lights, other than the fact that Christmas is coming. For some, lights are just the way that people celebrate the season.
Lights, as you know, are part of our Christian tradition. Our churches light extra candles on Advent wreaths. Some have candle light services on Christmas Eve. The symbolism behind it all, even the lights that line houses and shopping malls, originally goes back to Jesus own words, “I am the Light of the World.” At Christmas we celebrate how that Light first came into our world.
Lights serve several different purposes. We usually think of the purpose they serve in our homes and buildings. They make it possible for us to see at night. It is easy to see how Jesus served as this kind of light. Where the darkness of sin and unbelief made it impossible to see the truth, Jesus shed light on God’s word. He made it possible for people to see the truth about salvation.
In times past there has been another common use for lights less common for most of us today. They served as a beacon or marker. They marked a spot so that people could find it, like a lighthouse marks the shore line, or runway lights show where the runway is. Such lights guide us by showing our destination and drawing us to it.
Jesus came to be this kind of light, too. He marked the spot where people could find their heavenly Father. Isaiah’s words seem to have this in view: “I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Becoming such a light was costly. Isaiah 53 describes him as one who was despised. By Good Friday, it seemed as if the whole nation had turned against him. Even the Father turned away from the pitiful sight of Jesus hanging on a cross and hated him for the sins he was made to carry. His death was not a pleasant sight. But it was necessary.
Even as the last little flame of life in him flickered and failed, the Light of the world was blazing away, making God’s grace and forgiveness clear to see. His death may have been very humble, but it shows all the world the glory of God’s love. It’s light says, “This is where you find God’s grace. This is where you find your true home.”
Today Jesus lives, and his light is lifted up for the whole world to see. May every Christmas candle and bulb be a beacon marking the time, place, and events where God once saved us, and the other-worldly destination Jesus has made our home.