Years ago one Christmas, in my adventures with a friend of mine, we stumbled across the New Mexico town of Madrid. Madrid had formerly been a coal mining town and then a ghost town, and most recently artists had started to re-colonize it. But back in the 1930s Madrid had a spectacular display of Christmas lights, so bright that TWA re-routed their flights to behold the glory of this small mining town’s lights.
When the town died, so did the lights.
But the lights of Madrid remind me of another, greater, light, for 2000 years ago a great light in the sky that made the wisest men of the East go on a long journey to seek the King of Kings. For light has a way of drawing not only moths but also men to it.
Jesus Christ is the true light, and like the star of Bethlehem, all other lights should lead us to Him.
God is light. This is what He reveals Himself to be in I John 1:5 and also here in the 1st chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. This light has light in Him and is the light of men (John 1:5), and He is the light that gives light to every man.
Now God is light but a light that is darkened and invisible to men, and so to truly see God we can only see Him in light of Jesus Christ, who was God made man, born of the virgin Mary. The writer of Hebrews confirms that Jesus Christ is the express image of God the Father because He is both God and man (1:3). He alone can fully reveal God to us.
There’s a lot of interest in angels today – those luminous messengers of God – and sometimes more than in God Himself. In the Bible, angels are seen as glorious, luminous creatures so overwhelmingly bright and glorious that men are afraid of them or tempted to worship them. And yet their light is only the reflected light of the moon. It is only Jesus Christ who is the very image and glory of God. Because He is God, He is so vastly superior to angels in glory that there is simply no comparison.
The light of God is also reflected in the sun and the stars, and in the beauties of the earth. But the true light of God Who Is Light is only seen in Jesus Christ, the Son.
Light has four purposes, each of which tells us something about Jesus Christ who is the Light of the World.
Light illuminates: this is its primary purpose. We take light for granted, but most of the universe is in darkness. Only when you are near a star in the universe, like the sun, is there light. And only when we are in the light which is Jesus Christ are we able to see God, ourselves, and the world in their true light.
Without that light, the world grows dark: we doubt the existence of God; we can’t figure out who we are; and the world seems to have no meaning. But light dispels the darkness. Throw on a light switch – and the darkness in a house flees away!
Wherever Jesus Christ is present – in His people or in His Word – the darkness of sin and Satan, and of ignorance and evil, are driven away. Just as Jesus cast out demons whenever he met them, and sent them fleeing for their lives, the light of Jesus Christ overthrows and defeats the forces of darkness in our lives: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Light helps you see the truth. It helps you to see where you are going. Have you ever seen anyone groping around in the dark after your eyes have already adjusted to the dark and theirs haven’t? It’s actually quite humorous (that is, if your eyes have been changed and can see). They move slowly, cautiously, afraid of every square inch of a room, silently groping the walls of the room as if the Boogeyman might appear in the next foot – because they can’t see.
This is the way of those without God live their lives: they are groping in the darkness for the light of the truth, and they become afraid of every turn ahead because they can’t see things for what they really are.
But when Jesus Christ comes into the world and comes into a life the light switch is thrown on, and we can begin to see where we are going. This is what John means when he says of Jesus, in John 1:9, that “He was the true light which gives light to every man”
Light gives life. Every biology student knows that photosynthesis comes from the Greek words “photo” = light and “synthesis” = make. And so biologically we know that food is made from light and that without the food that is made from the light there would be no life. If you stop the light from shining, eventually everything dies. The light of the sun is also what regulates the temperature of the earth and makes is warm enough for life to thrive, and once again, without the sun there is no life.
But what if this were theologically true as well? Wouldn’t it mean that we need the Light of the World to live? This is exactly why St. John proclaims that Jesus Christ is the light of the world that gives life to the world.
Light is also glorious. We speak of glory “shining.” Can you even imagine what the word “glory” means without imagining light? Light, therefore, speaks of the glory which is God’s.
Have you ever just looked at the light in a chandelier, or a diamond, or those diamonds in the sky – the stars? Have you ever just reflected on the glory of the sun, and taken it all in, in wonder and awe?
These are all but small reflections of the glory that is God Himself. And in Jesus we are privileged to see the exact image of the glory of God. But to really see the glory of God we must first see the glory of His Son. Even this glory, as great as it is, sometimes grows dim in our lives. And then it must be our purpose to go and seek where the Light may be found once again: in His Word that created light, in prayer that reaches out to the light through the darkness, or in the Church, which is the radiant, bejeweled heavenly Jerusalem that comes down from heaven.
Finally, light brings joy.
We’ve all experienced the earthly joys due to the presence of light. We see it in children when they’re afraid of the dark and a light is turned on for them and the world becomes joyful and beautiful and peaceful once again. We experience it in the feeling of the return of spring when days get longer and we feel life renewing all around us and within us. And we have all known the joys of a sunny day. This came home to me especially during the year I spent in England, when I would sit in our flat, working on my Ph.D., waiting for that glorious and renewing time of day in the morning when the sun would come out to play for a little while.
And therefore, because the Light of the World has come into the world, Christmas and Epiphany and every day and every season is the season of light. Even as we speak, the days of darkness are being dispersed. Jesus, who is the light of the world, has come into the world to take away the darkness of our sins and to take away the pain of death and eternal death.
Therefore, we set aside our sorrows and sins and rejoice, because Jesus Christ the
Savior has been born – and that makes all the difference to a dark and dying world. We rejoice and rejoice always because God has come to be with us and because He has shown Himself to the Gentiles and has conquered the kingdom of darkness and has ascended for us to the light of the Father.
Like the wise men, let us be drawn again by Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, to marvel at and adore Him. Like the wise men, let us rejoice with an exceedingly great joy, because Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has come into the world – and in His light we see God.
Prayer: O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Find as many ways as you can today to see the physical light in your world today. Use your every experience of light to remind you of the Light of the World. Try to respond in as many different ways as possible to the light.
Resolution: I resolve to seek the light of Jesus Christ today in the way that I most need, whether in seeking the beatific vision of the God who is light, or seeking to be illuminated by the Light, or sharing the glory of the Light, or seeking to find new life in the Light.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson