Light of the World
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB)
During the Christmas season, we move things around in our living room to accommodate the tree and various decorations. Because we live in Northern Minnesota, it’s pretty dark early in the morning and late in the afternoon. It never fails that the first few early mornings after moving furniture I’m disoriented walking from our bedroom to the kitchen…where did I put that chair? Some years I’ve forgotten and tripped over something out of place, but other years I remember and with a simple flick of the light switch I’ve gotten my bearings and can move ahead freely.
Light exposes danger (like that chair that’s been moved) and reveals a way forward, a safe path to follow. Isn’t it interesting that God is described as light (1 John 1:5) yet we can’t see him? According to andor.com, “light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which ranges from radio waves to gamma rays.” The visible light that we ‘see’ is “not inherently different from the other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum with the exception that the human eye can detect visible waves.”
Even though scientists today have a lot of the answers to many things, light continues to surprise them. Most folks that know science (science.howstuffworks.com) assumed from evidence that light always travelled faster than anything in the universe until 1999 when “researchers at Harvard University were able to slow a beam of light down to 38 miles an hour (61 kilometers per hour) by passing it through a state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.” That 38 miles/hour doesn’t seem slow, but in reality that’s almost 18 million times slower than normal!
Before 1999, no science-minded person would have thought such a thing was even possible, but that’s the thing, scientists didn’t know it because they hadn’t seen it happen. They didn’t have the ‘sight’ to see it, they needed a special element (the Bose-Einstein condensate). Light…just when you think you have it figured out, BAAM! It defies logic and seems to change its nature…but has it really changed its nature, or are we just truly seeing it for the first time?
I’ve heard many people say things like “since you can’t see God, he isn’t real.” The disciples even questioned Jesus about it but he told them that because they had seen him, they had seen God. Jesus stated very clearly “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). Maybe, like the invisible light on the spectrum, we don’t ‘see’ God, or Jesus for that matter, because of our own eyes, not because He isn’t there or because we’re expecting to ‘see’ Him in our own finite understanding.
Do you have some expectation of how God is supposed to look? What he does or doesn’t do? Are you like the scientists with the speed of light? This Christmas are you looking for Jesus the way you expect to ‘see’ him? Maybe in the manger as a helpless baby or like the Israelites at the time of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, do you expect a King to destroy your physical enemies?
Throughout the Bible, God as ‘the light’ symbolizes his infinite knowledge and purity because nothing is hidden from his sight and because he is holy, righteous and perfect. And Jesus as ‘the light of the world’ reflects that perfect light for us, so we can see God. But here’s the crazy, wild, only Jesus could pull this off, thing: Jesus tells us, his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). What?!
We are told to “let OUR light shine before others, that they may see OUR good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Jesus also explained that light is only effective, exposing danger and giving a clear path, if it shines openly and brightly. He used a few metaphors like the city on a hill and a lampstand (Matthew 5:14; 5:15) to tell us that we needed to stand out, be seen in the darkness.
Let me backtrack a bit. Remember that Jesus said he was the light of the world? So it only stands to reason that when we enter a relationship with Jesus, admitting we aren’t perfect, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); and accepting the gift of salvation through Christ’s blood, his death on the cross for those sins (Romans 5:8); we have Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20), so then we are the light of the world. It’s a simple concept, but most people and religions make it complicated, and therefore miss the mark. His light lives in us, so it can shine through us to a dark world!
This Christmas, and every day after, for the rest of your life, whenever you see a light (whether it’s the pretty lights on a tree, the sun or another star that God has created, or just a lightbulb that is turned on through the wonder of electricity) remember that when we love, give, and serve with hearts overflowing with gratitude, people notice. The world will see our light and know that we aren’t normal. We’ve got something that they don’t, and we can show them the way out of darkness. Shine brightly wherever God has placed you today!
Lord you are the light, but because of your sacrifice and your transformation of our lives, we can be the light in this dark world we live in. We know your light overcomes the darkness…help us to shine brightly so that others will see You in us. Holy Spirit, give us the power to show Christ’s love today and every day. Amen!