December 25 – Christmas Morning
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read John 1:1 – 14
Grace and peace to you as you let the light of God shine in your life on this Christmas morning, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The whole Christian world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, born in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem of Judea. Even though His birth was over two thousand years ago, after all these centuries we continue to celebrate and rejoice, because Jesus is the bright light shining into the darkness of this world, the Apostle John put it this way, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1:4) ‘Life,’ that’s the name we call the Christ candle in the middle of the Advent wreath. For Christ is the light that brings life and the life in this light is eternal.
Christmas has been celebrated with lights on a tree since the eighteenth century when Christians in Germany used candles to decorate their tree and would light them only on Christmas eve and morning. In the early 20th century incandescent light bulbs were strung together and placed on the Christmas tree to replace the dangerous candles. One Christmas tree light has an interesting history. Edward and Lydelle Decker from Caster, Illinois purchased a set of four lights for their Christmas tree two day after their wedding, on Thanksgiving Day in 1946. Out of the package of four, one of the bulb continued to light up each year and since it was only one bulb it was used for the star at the top of the Christmas tree. Edward and Lydelle Decker have passed away now and have handed down that incredible Christmas bulb to their children and each year it is placed on the top of the tree where the family has gathered for Christmas to brightly shine of the family. It’s quite amazing that a Christmas lightbulb has lasted over these 70 some years.
Once, for a short time on this earth there was a light that was supposed to burn forever, not just during the brief season of Christmas but for every moment of the year. That light was the light that began with God creating Adam and Eve. At their creation, they knew nothing but the holy life and light of God had created and was in and around them. That light and life continued for them until Satan lured them with temptations and lies to look for a better life. With the introduction of sin, the light of life was extinguished, snuffed out.
It’s interesting the way we use metaphors. We say that at the end of a life, it is extinguished, snuffed out. But extinguishing and snuffing out something actually has to do with a candle or a fire not a light that is turned on and turned off by its connection to a source of energy and power. Still often today when someone come to the end of their life we say that their light has gone out. Which is what God is talking about as He says through the Apostle John, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1:4)
Now since sin came into this world it has been referred to as darkness, the opposite of light. We were created to live our lives in the light of God, which we have the ability to do as we let the light of God live in us and we will have the ability to do constantly when Jesus comes again to take us from this world of darkness to our heavenly home of light. But since sin came into this world we have been going through vicious cycles of darkness, as the darkness of sin continues to take us from the light of God as the Apostle John talks about when he says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:9 – 13)
Adam and Eve were not faithful to God, the people of Israel were not faithful to God and we have not been faithful to God always. Despite our unfaithfulness, God in His faithfulness sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be born as a tiny baby, so meek and so mild. Born of the Virgin Mary and placed in a manger as His first bed in this world. From His appearance on that first Christmas morning, it seemed that the darkness of the world would extinguish His life too. Though the darkness of this world would try to snuff out the light of God found in this tiny baby, this was no ordinary child. It was Jesus, the one who would save His people from their sins, bringing them to a new life out of the darkness and into the light of life.
Jesus, true God from the beginning, was born of man to become a man for the purpose of bringing each of us life and salvation. What was born on that night in Bethlehem was not just an ordinary life, it was the life that would overcome the death and darkness of this world. Sin, death and darkness wanted to snuff out His life too, but they weren’t able. Death wanted to swallow up His life from his birth all the way to His cross, yet Jesus is the life and the light in us, born to crush the head of death, born to destroy the shadow of darkness and born to remove the curse of sin from us. Jesus is the life that was born to bring hope, peace, joy, love and life back into our lives through faith so that we would become the children of our heavenly Father. God reminds us through the Apostle John, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5)
In the Old Testament God instructed the Israelites to celebrate specific festivals at specific times of the year according to his detailed instructions. The last of those feasts was called the Feast of the Booths or Tabernacles which lasted eight day. In this celebration, the Israelites would build booths or small hut, to live outside their homes, to teach and remind each generation how they had to travel through the wilderness to the Promised Land with the light of God guiding them along the way.
At the end of each day there was a special ceremony called the Illumination, which involved the priests going to the outer court of the temple and lighting four golden oil-fed candelabras, menorahs, that stood seventy-five feet tall above each side of the temple and shone out onto the city. All night long the light would shine, illuminating the entire city and each night during the celebration another light would be lit till on the 7th night, when all seven candles of the candelabra were lit. This ceremony was a reminder that God has promised to send a light of life into the sin filled darkness of this world. It was at one of the feast of the Booths that Jesus stood at the base of one of these incredible Menorahs as it glowed in the night and says those comforting words to us, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12) Jesus is the light piercing the darkness, illuminating not just a city and a temple but the whole world, bring the lost out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.
There’s an interesting effect that this light generates, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the life of a Christian. It’s called faith, faith that trust in the forgiveness of sins purchased and won for us by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. Faith that gives us hope as we face the constant attacks of sin and darkness in this world. Faith that gives us peace as we know that Jesus is in control as we deal with the turmoil of this world. Faith that gives us joy as we are assured that Jesus is with us and will come again to bring us to the brightness of His glory in our heavenly home. Faith that comes from knowing and feeling the love of God given to us by all that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in our lives.
Yes, in faith, we rejoice because we have been given a new life. We celebrate that God loves us so much that He sent His light into the darkness of this world to be born as a human, to be the long-awaited Messiah, to be the Suffering Savior, to be the conqueror of darkness, to be our life and light, our sure defense over sin and death.
As I look at the lights on the Christmas tree, I think about Edward and Lydelle’s Christmas light, I wonder just how long that light will continue to shine. It’s quite impressive that it has burned during the Christmas celebration for more than seventy years already. The celebration of the illumination back in Jesus’ time must have been quite impressive also, with those four huge menorahs that lit up not only the temple but the whole city of Jerusalem.
As remarkable as those lights have been, we know they will burn out. But in contrast, the light of Jesus will never burn out, for it is the light that needs no electricity or oil to shine. It will never be snuffed out, extinguished, because Jesus is the light of God’s Love, full of grace and truth. He is the life in the light that brightly shines God’s Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and gives us a new Life for all eternity that lighting up the darkest fears and sins in our lives with the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God. He is the life in the light of Christmas, shining continuously in this world until the new dawn comes and we meet Him face to face. On this Christmas morning let the light of God’s love, joy, peace and hope be a part of your life and share it with others. Amen.