Rev. Mark Buetow
One of my favorite things this time of year is the lights. Christmas lights. Maybe it’s because it gets dark so early now here in the Northern Hemisphere. Maybe it’s because I don’t generally like things dark. But I do enjoy sitting with no lights on in the house but the Christmas tree and trim lights. I like driving down Main Street in our little town, seeing the light poles adorned with twinkling lights. I eagerly anticipate the candlelight singing of “Silent Night” in the church lit only by candles and Christmas tree lights. Perhaps I like the lights so much because they are a reminder of Jesus, the Light of the world.
The prophet Isaiah says that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is. 9:2). When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, St. John writes that He is the “True Light coming into the world. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5). Later, Jesus says of Himself, “I AM the Light of the World.” (John 8:12). Jesus. Light. Dispelling darkness. Making things bright. Brighter than Christmas tree lights. Brighter than Rudolph’s nose. A Light so bright it destroys the shadows and darkness even of sin, of despair and of death.
We live in a dark world. It’s dark with sin. People do whatever they want. The selfishness of sinners knows no upper limit. The cruelty and hatred we exhibit can always sink lower. We live in a world dark with sadness. Suffering. Sickness. The inevitable rush toward death. We live in a world dark with despair. Some people are so hurting that they see nothing but darkness all around them. A darkness they so much want to fall into and maybe, seeing no hope, will try to plunge themselves into. We live in a world glaring with the harsh lights of a holiday that few understand. Outwardly, the world cranks up the wattage until it can match the Griswold’s house from “Christmas Vacation” while inwardly it is dying of sadness and gloom with bah-humbuggery and disgust at the whole thing.
Into that darkness, angels appear over Bethlehem. Into that darkness, the Word-made-flesh shows His face from a manger. Into that darkness, the Father places a star to guide magi. Into that darkness Jesus walks, head on. To the darkness of Good Friday. To the darkness of a newly cut tomb. Into darkness. To light it up like Christmas lights and candles. To shine the light of Himself to send death and sin scurrying, retreating, fading, wiping out shadows, darkness gone.
Into your darkness too. Whatever that darkness may be. Despair. Doubts. Unbelief. Sins inside yourself. Sin around you. Families falling apart. Death stealing your friends. Hurt and sorrow around you. The great emptiness of the world’s Christmas. Into all of it, the Light of Christ shines for you. It’s light in your Baptism, brightening by the absolution and shining forth in the Supper where the flesh and blood of the Light of the World almost glow and radiate forgiveness. Peace. Light. No shadows there. No darkness. Can’t be. Those are the gifts of the Light of the World. Jesus is the Light of the World. His gifts bring Light to rescue you from every darkness there is.
That’s why I like Christmas lights. They remind me of Jesus. And whether they give you a sense of wonder and peace or not, whether the whole Christmas extravaganza is something you relish or could do without, know this: Wherever there is darkness, the Light of Christ shines. Nothing can put it out. For He shines to bring His Light to you that you may be forever comforted and never afraid of the dark.