Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

From our Gospel on Christmas, “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.”

Light is an interesting subject this time of year. Most of our homes have some sort of Christmas lights up for decoration. Sometimes we even drive through certain neighborhoods known for elaborate Christmas light displays. Or, we go over to Garvin Park and see the GD Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights Display here in Evansville. Or, we have to put up with neighbors like the Griswold that put up way too many lights.

Christmas and light seem to go together. Light is one of the most basic symbols of our Christian faith. Holy Scripture begins and ends with light. God’s very first recorded words are, “Let there be light” open up creation, just as Revelation closes with the promise that there will be no more night in Heaven, for the Lord Almighty and the Lamb shall be our light.

Light stands for all that is good and right and holy, as opposed to darkness, which stands for all that is sinful and evil and to be feared.

Jesus called himself the “Light of the World”. In our Nicene Creed we confess him as God of God, Light of Light. For all the good things that light stands for… That is what Christ represents. Jesus Christ is the light in the midst of darkness.

Have you ever wondered why Deacon Mike, myself and others in the clergy wear the black shirts with the white collars? It is because we are this age’s testifiers of the light. We clergy all dress alike. That is because we are not important, but the message is. We bring the message of light to a dark, cold and sinful world.

Jesus, the Light of the World, was born to dispel the darkness of sin... To dispel our sin. Yours and mine.

One thing I have noticed is that as so many of us go about our Christmas celebrations and the darkness is never seems far away. Don’t we all feel it????

The darkness of strained family relationships. The darkness of the stressful demands on our time and money. The darkness of a loneliness in this supposed happiest time of the year. The darkness of missing ones you wish were with you, but are not any longer. The darkness of guilt looking back on a year full of mistakes. The darkness always seems to be there.

Don’t we all carry with us to some degree the feeling that even though it seems like the rest of the world is full of smiles, candy, and Christmas decorations we are still in darkness?

But… When we focus on the true message of Christmas the darkness is chased away.

On that First Christmas Night in the darkness were the shepherds protecting their sheep until light from the Angels broke into their darkness.

But the greatest light the Shepherds saw that night was not the choirs of Angles singing God’s praises. The greatest light was a tiny baby wrapped up and lying in a meager manger.

Let us recall the words the angels used to announce the news to the shepherds.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

God's salvation isn't sometime, somewhere out there, somehow undefined and unsure and hazy… This isn’t just one competing philosophy of many philosophies. This is the truth. In Christ, in Bethlehem, in the manger, in swaddling clothes, today, he is born, said the angels. This is real!

I absolutely love this Gospel reading …The First Gospel reading of Christmas…

I love the Gospel of John One.

John came to testify concerning Jesus Christ the Light of the world, that He was the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Almighty Saviour, to whom all of us dark souls should apply.

This doesn’t just need to be Christ’s birth we celebrate but our own birth, our own regeneration. We can celebrate that complete change of heart and nature which takes place in a person when they become a Christian and truly accept Christ Jesus.

God offers a change so great that no other image but that of a new birth can fully express it. When we fully accept Christ in our hearts we become a new being, with new appetites, wants, and desires.

As it says in 2 Corinithians, Chapter 5, Verse 17, A person born of God is "a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

We are offered through Christ’s birth and death free salvation by faith in HIM.

As the great Anglican Bishop JC Ryle once said, “Of all the doctrines of the Bible there is none so important as that of free salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. He that believeth on Jesus is not condemned. By Him all that believe are justified from all things."

This is my brothers and sisters is the cornerstone of all Christianity. A mistake in this belief is fatal… True belief in free salvation through Christ will keep us on the true and certain path.

This is the doctrine of light for which we should cling to until our very deaths. We should cling to it for our own peace; we should seek it as person locked in a room with no light at all feels and gropes the walls for a light switch. It would be better to take away the sun a million times from heaven than take out of Christianity free forgiveness of our sins by faith in Jesus Christ.

For that is the true light.

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