Advent has begun. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, so we didn’t really make a big deal about Advent. In fact, I don’t even remember hearing the word until I was in college. Advent means arrival. The actual Advent season begins with the four Sundays that precede Christmas and concludes on Christmas Eve. (As a side note, I also learned later in life that Christmas actually is twelve days long, ending on January 5 . . . just like the song says.)
Today is the fourth day of Advent, and while many people are reading some kind of an Advent devotion, I have chosen to continue reading through John. One of my favorite decorations you see during the Advent season is Christmas lights. I always have loved them, I think I always will. White lights, multi-colored lights, bright lights, LED lights, blinking lights, chasing lights, I like them all. But I especially like just plain old white, non-blinking lights. They’re constant. They pierce the darkness around them. They make beautiful whatever they adorn.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Jesus has much to say in this encounter with the Pharisees, but this statement crowns them all. “I am the light of the world.” Of all the I am statements that Jesus made, this one has to be my favorite. One of the things that distinguished the Jewish religion was the centrality and importance of light. Hanukkah, which is celebrated by Jews alongside the Advent season, is a festival of lights. In the Temple, and earlier in the Tabernacle, there was a large lamp stand with seven lamps. When Moses came down from the mountain after being with God for forty days, his face shown with light. Light was an important metaphor to the Jew. It represented holiness and justice. It represented the very presence of God.
When Jesus made this declaration to the Pharisees, he was messing with their worldview. He was saying that he is the standard of holiness and justice. He is the standard of compassion. He is the standard of righteousness. He is the standard of mercy. And not just for the Jews, but for the whole world.
This wreaks havoc on everyone’s worldview. All standards of mercy, compassion, righteousness, holiness, justice, love, no matter who established them, no matter which religion, no matter how seemingly good, they are overshadowed by Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world. He shines in the darkness. He casts light into places that men would rather keep dark. He gives light to the path where his believers journey.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
The word became flesh (John 1:14). He is the light that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. And so he is for anyone who will believe in him. You will not walk in darkness if you follow him. In fact you will have what Jesus calls the light of life. Your life will become a light for others to follow, as you follow Jesus.
His light overpowers the lesser lights of lesser gods.
Because Jesus is the light of the world, he is the standard above all standards. His light overpowers the lesser lights of lesser gods. His light even outshines the light given in the Law of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:7-11). He shines on us, and outshines our works, even our good works; he is brighter and more brilliant than even the brightest star.
I don’t usually close my blogs with songs, but this song is a great way to end today. May his light shine on you today, and his grace abound abundantly.