Light of the World

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”
Isaiah‬ ‭7:14, 9‬:‭2‬, ‭6‬-‭7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On this Christmas Day we continue to look at Isaiah’s prophecy. When the Son walked the highways and byways of Palestine, He found a people who were indeed living in a time of great darkness. There had not been a prophetic word for over four hundred years, and, worse, the land was occupied by a cruel army who severely suppressed the fiercely independent Jewish nation. But into this “deep darkness” came a “great light”. The Light of the World had arrived. Jesus said as much, in John 8:12, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life””. He couldn’t have been clearer of His mission as He walked out the Isaiah prophecy amongst His people. 

Jesus, the Son of God, was faultless in implementing His mission. But, sadly, He was largely rejected by the very people who so desperately needed Him. We read in Luke 17:25, “But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation“. His own people ended up calling for His execution as a criminal. But they weren’t to know that this was all part of God’s plan. If it wasn’t through God’s plan with the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, through His birth, death and resurrection, we would never have found a way to be with God, to experience eternal life. The Apostle Paul referred to this as the mystery of God, and he wrote in Ephesians 3:3-4, “As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ“. 

Jesus was and is God’s Light to the world. He is so desperately needed in our current generation, as He has been in all previous generations. But once again we have a generation of people who reject Him. However, we pilgrims have a golden opportunity, while there is still time, while God’s unlimited grace is still available, to tell the world around us about God’s mysterious plan. We tell the people in our families and communities about the Baby who came two thousand years ago, and who we celebrate in this season of Christmas. We tell everyone about the Baby’s journey into being an itinerant preacher, but with a difference – He was, and is, God’s Son. We tell everyone we can about His sinless life and death for our sins. And we tell everyone He is still alive today, present here on Planet Earth through His Spirit.

The Son of God, the Light of the World, can illuminate our lives, our world. If we let Him. There is no longer a mystery. God’s unlimited love and grace is available for all to access. This season of celebration, the Christmas period, can be full of misery, or it can be full of hope. The best gift this world has ever seen is in God’s hands, and if we look closely, He is holding it out to us. All we have to do is look up out of our circumstances and take it. And as we unwrap it, the Light of the World will burst into a glorious vista, bringing a shining light into our deep darkness.

Dear Father God. I pray today for all those in my family and community who don’t know You, that they too will look up and see Your wonderful gift there for the taking. Amen.


Public Faith

“Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son.”
Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭NLT

After the initial greetings, Paul gets into his letter. And straight away he thanks the Christians in Rome for their faith in God. It’s ”being talked about all over the world“, he said. What an accolade! But how could their faith become so public? And what was there about that faith that made other people in the city talk about it?

Here in the UK, faith is often considered to be a very private matter. There is almost an embarrassment with some Christians, if asked a question about their church or what they believe. In the workplace, religion is a no go area for many, and in the lives of some Christians there is no clue that would indicate their faith. Such people behave the same way as everyone else Monday to Saturday, the only difference is that they will disappear into a church building for an hour or so on a Sunday morning, while others head for the golf course or some other activity. Such a faith is hardly what Paul is highlighting here in his message of thanks. And it is also not following what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” Such Christians may not be denying Jesus “here on earth”, but they aren’t “acknowledging [Him] publicly” either. 

How would we get our faith to become the subject of a public discussion? And to what extent should we? In my daily walks around the West of Fife, I try and take every opportunity to share my faith. Most people in my neighbourhood know what I stand for, regarding the things of God. In the office my fellow workers knew about my faith. But is that enough? A Christianity that is benign and inoffensive is hardly likely to be the subject of discussion. We Christians have a counter-cultural message of salvation that, when superimposed on this devil-controlled world, causes offence. We have a God-sourced opinion about sin and wickedness that those in the world find uncomfortable. Christians everywhere will soon find themselves publicly noticed when they stand up for the Biblical, God-breathed, principles of sexuality, marriage and the sanctity of human life, both before and after birth. And this is just a start. We may not be the sandwich-board evangelists, shouting out an in-your-face message of “turn or burn” or something similar, but there should be something about Christians that publicises the “salt and light” talked about by Jesus in Matthew 5.

Of course, there are positives about Christians that those in the world find attractive and for which people are grateful. For example, most food banks in the UK are run by Christian organisations. Christian charities are extensively glueing together the fabric of society, with benevolent acts, being “good Samaritans” to their friends and neighbours. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Are we hilltop or basket lights?

We pilgrims have the opportunity to make our marks on the societies in which we live. By nailing our colours to the masts of our communities, we will become ridiculed, avoided, and even abused. But we know the future. The world economic machine, riddled with sin and wickedness, grinds on towards eternal destruction, but, through God’s grace, we have the counter-cultural words of eternal life. We have the message of hope that is denied to so many by their love of the things of the world. We pray for God’s grace to extend to those we meet, that His love will warm their hearts, and that another child of the enemy will be released from their life of sin into a new life as a child of God.

Heavenly Father. We pray for our friends and families, that Your grace and love will work transforming miracles in their lives. We worship You today. Amen.

The Messiah Comes

“The Lord swore an oath to David
    with a promise He will never take back:
“I will place one of your descendants
    on your throne.
If your descendants obey the terms of My covenant
    and the laws that I teach them,
then your royal line
    will continue forever and ever.”
For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem;
    He has desired it for His home.
“This is My resting place forever,” he said.
    “I will live here, for this is the home I desired.
I will bless this city and make it prosperous;
    I will satisfy its poor with food.
I will clothe its priests with godliness;
    its faithful servants will sing for joy.
Here I will increase the power of David;
    My Anointed One will be a light for My people.””
Psalm 132:11-17 NLT

It’s Christmas Day, Folks. And believe it or not, there were prophetic verses in the Psalms that pointed forward to the coming Messiah. Part of the prophesy in these verses has been realised. For example, David was an ancestor of Jesus and His genealogy can be seen in Mathew 1. But other verses are yet to come to fruition – puzzling until we realise that Jesus is going to come again. And in this context we see that He will make His home in Jerusalem. It will be a prosperous city, spiritually rich with Godly priests, full of joy and singing and Jesus will be the Light for all. 

But today we celebrate the first coming of Jesus. That amazing event when God Himself, through the Person of His Son, came to this earth, taking on a human body, starting His life as a baby, living a life like us. All because we were a lost people, part of the human race, heading through a sin-filled life into a lost eternity. He came first to His own people, but taught that God loved everyone and wanted none to perish and come to a dark and dismal end. 

Sadly, today, this day of remembrance has turned into a materialistic cacophony of tinsel and turkey, crackers and crackling, drinking and dozing, giblets and gadgets, where even the “Happy Christmas” has been replaced by “Happy Holiday”. The spirit of the world doesn’t want the challenge of having to face into the reality that Jesus, God’s Son, was born as a human being with one mission – to reconcile them to God Himself – if they would only accept His invitation. So today, as we enjoy a meal together with our loved ones, perhaps we should remember that Jesus is the Light, sent to guide us on our pilgrimage through life to a time when we can join Him. He was the first born of many brothers and sisters – He has gone before us to prepare a place where “His faithful servants will sing for joy“. Don’t forget that there will be others around us who perhaps are on their own this Christmas, and who would like the Light of the World, Jesus, to illuminate their lives too.  If you are one of them, remember that you are not alone – there are three other People with you – Jesus, Father God and the Holy Spirit. Oh – thinking about Jesus being the Light of the World – are we not His torch bearers?