This Little Light of Mine

John 1:1-13

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Dear Friends in Christ,

So let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty.  With Christmas only 15 days away, how many of you have most if not all of your Christmas shopping done?  Please raise your hand.  Let’s get more specific here.  How many of you women have most if not all of your Christmas shopping done?  Please raise your hand.  And now, how many of you men have most if not all of your Christmas shopping done?  There’s no doubt about it, Christmas shopping can be a very painful experience for most men, but not nearly as painful as what one man was soon to face when his wife and their adult daughter went Christmas shopping at the mall one day and his wife spotted a very luxurious and very expensive fur coat.  “This year,” she said, “I think that I will pick out my own present instead of making you and your dad shop for me.  And I think this fur coat would make the perfect gift.”  The daughter, however, began to protest.  She said, “But Mom, some poor helpless creature has to suffer so that you can have that fur coat.”  To which her mom replied, “Don’t worry, honey.  Your father – that poor helpless creature – won’t get the bill till after the holidays.”

Well, as I stated in my sermon last week, I’m trying to add a little spice, a little originality to my 2 Sunday morning Advent sermons this year by basing them upon words found in popular Christmas songs.  You may recall that my sermon last Sunday was based upon the first line of the popular children’s Christmas song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which begins by saying “You better watch out!”  That line afforded us a great opportunity to talk about Christ’s 2nd coming and how we need to be ready and prepared for that event at all times.  Today’s message is going to be based upon another well-known children’s song that isn’t necessarily a Christmas song, though I have heard it sung at this time of the year.  And that song is “This Little Light of Mine.”

That is a very fitting theme to focus upon this morning because of how the Gospel writer John refers to Jesus as “the light” in our text for today.  In fact, John uses that word light no less than 21 times in reference to Jesus in his Gospel.  Perhaps the most famous quotation can be found in John 8:12 where Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And while our text says that John the Baptist was not the light, as many people probably thought he was when they went out to hear him preach, he made it very clear to them that his job was to only point people to the light so that they would recognize it when it appeared on the scene in the person of Jesus, their long-awaited and much-anticipated Messiah.

The celebration of Advent then is really a celebration of light coming into our dark world.  So let’s spend some time this morning focusing upon the importance of light and relating that to the significant role that Jesus plays in our lives as the light of the world.

The first point I want to make is that light dispels our fears.   Remember the times we’ve had ice storms over the years and we’ve lost power for extended periods of time?  What’s the first thing we do when the power goes out, especially if it’s at night?  We stumble around the house looking for that ever-elusive flashlight that often times has dead batteries in it.  Or we light candles to brighten up our homes because human beings by nature don’t fare very well in darkness.

That was definitely the case with one fellow by the name of Darrel Dore who about 40 years ago was working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico when all of a sudden that rig began to wobble.  Before long it tipped over completely and crashed into the water.  Darrel found himself trapped inside a room on that rig.  As it sank deeper and deeper into the sea, the lights went out and the room where Darrel was trapped began filling with water.  Thrashing about in the darkness, he somehow managed to find his way to a huge air pocket that formed in the corner of the room.  He kept his head inside that pocket and began praying that someone would find him.  For the next 22 hours he remained there in total darkness.  We can only imagine the fear that must have gripped him under those circumstances.  But then it happened.  In the pitch black water a tiny point of light pierced the darkness.  He wasn’t sure whether he was hallucinating or whether it was real.  But gradually the light grew brighter and brighter and he soon discovered it was attached to the helmet of a diver who was coming to rescue him.  His long nightmare of fear was over and he was saved.

That in essence is what John is telling us in our text for today – that our long nightmare of fear is over  because of the light that penetrated the darkness on that first Christmas night so long ago…a light that had the power to dispel our fears: our fear of death, our fear of God’s judgment that we deserve because of our sins, our fear of the past, our fear of the present, our fear of the future.

But there’s another important quality of light that we need to consider today.  And that is that light is necessary for life.  That was a lesson I learned firsthand when I was taking a Botany class during my second year of college and our professor gave us an assignment to do an experiment involving plant life.  It was up to each one of us to determine what kind of experiment we would do.  Well, I finally decided that I would test the effects that certain minerals had on plants.  So I planted some seed beans in individual pots and once they started growing, with the help of my professor, I came up with different concoctions, different solutions that I would water them with.  For example, one plant might receive a solution that was heavy on nitrogen.  Another might get lots of manganese or magnesium and so on.  And then just for the fun of it, I placed one of those bean plants in a closet to see how it would do without the ingredient of light.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what happened to it.  It died a swift and certain death because light is necessary for life.

And so it is with Jesus, the Light of the World.  He is necessary for true life.  In fact, in John 10:10 he says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  So Jesus offers us what he calls the abundant life.  But what exactly does that mean?  Does that mean a life full of riches and wealth, a life overflowing with an abundance of material possessions?  Some television preachers want you to believe that.  In fact, we even have a name for the message they proclaim.  It’s called the prosperity gospel or health and wealth theology.  But is that really what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the abundant life?  I think you know the answer to that question.  So what exactly is this abundant life?  Well, here’s what I came up with. It’s a life that is abundantly overflowing with forgiveness for the guilt-ridden, grace for the undeserving, peace for the weary and troubled, direction for the confused and searching, joy for the heartbroken and hurting, and heaven for those who long for a better life after this one.

Then a third point that we want to make about light today is that the darkness cannot overcome it.  Once the light is shining, there is no darkness that can extinguish it.  You can throw as much darkness at it as you want, but the light will continue to shine.  In fact, the more darkness you bring to it, the brighter the light shines.  This is not only true literally, but also figuratively.  And perhaps few people understand that more than the man who lost his bid for the presidency in 2008, John McCain.

He once wrote an article for Reader’s Digest about the time he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  Any of you who have heard his story know that he was cruelly mistreated in that prison camp.  But fortunately, as the time drew closer for them to go home, he and his fellow prisoners were given a little more freedom, which made for a very special Christmas that year.  On Christmas Eve the prisoners all gathered together in a dimly lit room with just one light bulb.  Think about that this evening, my friends, when you turn on all the Christmas lights in your home and enjoy the special atmosphere of warmth that they bring to your home.  And try to imagine being far away from your home and family in the most deplorable conditions imaginable, at the mercy of an enemy that could care less whether you lived or died, huddled with your fellow prisoners around a single light bulb on Christmas Eve.  Yet there, as John McCain tells it, in the midst of those dark, dreary, and dismal conditions, those soldiers began to sing “Silent Night” after which they exchanged crude handmade gifts.  He said he remembers that Christmas as his best Christmas ever.

That’s what I mean when I say the darkness cannot extinguish the light.  That light shines in prison camps.  It shines in hospital rooms and funeral parlors.  It shines in nursing homes and hospice facilities.  To paraphrase the great words of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 8:38-39: “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything in all creation can overcome the light that Jesus brought to our world that first Christmas night.”

And because of that, there is one more thing that needs to be said this morning.  And that is that this light needs to be shared with other people. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine.”  And my friends, there is no better time of the year to shine that light or share that light with others than this time of the year because the closer we get to Christmas, the more open and receptive most people are to the light-bringing, life-changing, soul-saving message that this holy season brings with it.

As many of you know, this can not only be a very joyous time of the year for people, it can also be one of the most depressing times.  For it recalls Christmases long past when life was simpler and better and families were stronger and loved ones were still living.  But with time and age and sickness and death having taken their toll on their families, those once grand and glorious Christmas celebrations are now long gone, never to return again.  And there’s no getting around the fact that it hurts.

Perhaps you know somebody like that.  If so, what a great opportunity you have to shine the light of Christ into that person’s dark life and let them know about an eternal celebration that he is making ready for us and all his faithful children where he promises that he will wipe away every tear from our eyes forever and things like sorrow and death, suffering and pain, sickness and disease will never bother us or touch us or affect us again.  I might add a little plug here for the Longest Night Christmas service that Pastor Mike will be leading here on the evening of Dec. 21.  This service is designed to provide support and encouragement for those who have experienced a loss this year or those for whom Christmas just isn’t a very joyous time.  If you know of someone whom you feel would benefit from it, by all means invite them or perhaps even bring them.

So my friends, the good news I want you to take home with you today is that the light has come.  And even though the devil and the world have done their best to extinguish that light throughout the course of history, it continues to shine.  The shepherds saw its glow in a lowly manger that first Christmas night.  The disciples saw its glow on that first Easter evening when it appeared to them behind locked doors.  Our grandparents and great-grandparents and some of you saw its glow in the darkest hours of the Great Depression.  Our soldiers have seen its glow on distant battlefields.  And we can see its glow as well in spite of the wars, the terrorist attacks, the natural disasters, the economic woes, and all the other troubles that have rocked our planet this year.

So to borrow the words of Is. 60:1-2, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”  May he give you eyes to see the glory of that light throughout this Advent and Christmas season and the opportunity to share that light with others.  Amen.