Can you imagine what the lead story of the Bethlehem nightly news might have looked like the morning after Jesus was born? Something like: Bethlehem’s streets and Inns filled to capacity as hundreds arrive as a result of Caesar’s decree. Interviews from disgruntled travelers and sold out shopkeepers follow the headline news. Perhaps somewhere as a byline they mention the rantings of shepherds who claim to see a vision from another world. No one would have led with the birth of a peasant’s baby in a manger, no one would have even cared. The day’s story of substance was not to be found in Herod’s palace, nor anywhere in Jerusalem for that matter.
The pandemic, the election and of course fake news… what a year! I find it quite intriguing however that in the year 2020 amidst all that we find ourselves looking at, there is this star in the sky that reminds us of a night long ago when a star shone bright, welcoming the birth of a king. We’re in a heap of trouble right now, I know. Disciplines considered of upmost importance in every generation for the past 200 years have been removed. Religion – gone, Ethics – gone, Philosophy – gone, Logic – gone, Grammar – almost gone, History – fading fast. Yet there is something about a star that brightens the night.
The comparison between darkness and light fill the pages of scripture. One of my favorite passages on the subject is from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Listen to Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message, which sheds even more light (no pun intended here): “You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So, watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”
It was Jesus who not only said that we are the salt of the earth, but the light of the world. The dictionary defines light as a “source of illumination.” First, notice Light dispels darkness… Christians, reflecting the light of Christ, bearing His light, dispel spiritual darkness. The progress may seem slow, but the results are apparent. Another characteristic of light is that it Reveals. Have you ever walked into a darkened room and not known what was there? Then, suddenly, the light is switched on and the contents of the room are revealed. As Christ’s presence in our world, we become his instruments to reveal his truth to a world in darkness. Thirdly, Light Awakens. We are to be the light of the world, awakening men and women to the truth of the Kingdom’s arrival, awakening society to the presence of God. Lastly, we see that Light Warns. In the same sense that a lighthouse warns of dangerous waters or a police car flashing light warns of the policeman darting through traffic, Christians warn of impending danger to a careless world.
As a child Robert Louis Stevenson was in very poor health. One night, when he was quite sick, his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch your death of cold,” she fussed, but young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat mesmerized as he watched an old lamplighter slowly work his way through the black night lighting each street lamp along his route. “See, look there,” Robert pointed. “There’s a man poking holes in the darkness.” That’s what we are called to do, poke holes in the darkness!
Jesus is calling us to be the light of the world. The Christian’s light is something to be seen. Our Christianity should be vibrant and visible. Salt in a saltshaker and light under a bushel basket makes no impact. Christians void of visible deeds of compassion influences no one. God has called us to influence our world. We are called to make a difference. We can’t do everything. But we can do something. And what we can do, we ought to do.
Jesus said to us… “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As we come to the close of 2020 and enter the next, let’s go poke some holes in the darkness!
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council