One of the important themes of Christmas is Light. From the “glory of the Lord” shining all around the Shepherds, to the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem, light helps us focus on the surprising Baby Savior. We also commemorate this with Advent Candles, strings of lights decorating our houses and Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane (not pictured above).
The Light dimmed after those first exciting days, as the Baby was growing and maturing over the next thirty years. But then it burned brightly during Jesus’ three years of public ministry. Enraged, the forces of darkness snuffed out the Light by executing him. However, in a statement of ultimate triumph, the Light exploded into Eternity through his Resurrection.
One of the memorable things Jesus taught his disciples during his earthly ministry is found in these words:
“You are the Light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your Light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
If you try imagining yourself as “the Light of the world,” as Jesus’ primary witness in your world today, you will feel like a very small, feeble, flickering candle that emanates a pathetically tiny amount of Light. But Jesus was not asking any one of his disciples alone to be the Light; he was asking them to shine all together. All the you’s in that passage are plural in the original Greek; unfortunately, our modern English can’t express that, because you-singular and you-plural are the same. Maybe we can express the meaning better by saying “You all are the Light of the world” (or even “Y’all are the Light of the world”). That is, all together (the twelve disciples that Jesus was speaking to) were one light, a unified witness — to the world.
Applying this challenge to us, in 2023, Jesus is not asking you or me alone to be the Light of the world, he’s asking us to shine together as one bright display of who he is and how he wants us to live. That means our Church should be a Light, our TLC group, our Christian family and friendships.
What should that Light be? What is an effective witness for Christ by a body of believers? Look at the context of this commission in Matthew’s Gospel. It comes right after one of Jesus’ simplest, yet most radical teachings: what we know as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). Jesus seems to be telling his disciples — and the faith family at ABC — that they will light up the world when they treat each other, and the people around them, in the beatitude way, putting others first, being meek rather than bossy, showing mercy, acting as peacemakers, even when others stir up trouble.
Jesus said this to his imperfect disciples, and he’s still saying it to imperfect us. When a group of people internalize Jesus’ beatitude spirit, it can just light up the place!
– – Pastor George Van Alstine