I’ve only been camping a handful of times in my life, because I am what some might call an “avid indoorsman.”
I remember one of those trips more vividly than the others. I woke up sometime after midnight and leaned over, shook my friend awake and asked where the bathroom was located. He sarcastically growled, “All around you,” before rolling over and falling back asleep.
So I slid my flip flops on, and walked into the trees surrounding us. When I was ready to go back to the tent I turned back. and suddenly realized how dark it was outside. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but there were no stars due to the cloud cover, and the moon was nowhere to be found.
I stretched my arms out and began slowly shuffling back towards the campsite. After a few “steps” I realized that I had no way of knowing if I was headed the right direction. I began to question myself, but before my internal dispute was settled I fell. (I now know why flip-flops aren’t marketed to the hiking community.)
As I sat there in the dirt, my knees and hands stinging from the impact, I felt trapped by the darkness. I felt hopeless.
The scriptures tells us that apart from Christ, we all experience a spiritual darkness just as oppressive as the physical darkness I experienced in those woods. This spiritual darkness, according to scriptures, causes us to stumble and fall (John 11:10). It causes us to wander without knowing where we are going (John 12:35). This darkness only holds fear for us as it makes us sit in the “shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). In this darkness we waste our lives with unfruitful work (Ephesians 5:11). And ultimately this darkness has us trapped (Colossians 1:13).
But here is the story of hope: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Darkness doesn’t stand a chance against the light. The most oppressive darkness is helpless even to the smallest light. As I sat on that forest floor, trapped by the darkness, a friend of mine got up to make the same trek I had just made, but before embarking he did something I did not do — he turned on a flashlight. As soon as he did, I could see it. The darkness that had trapped me was shattered by this small light. I wasn’t lost anymore. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I wasn’t trapped anymore.
The spiritual darkness that oppresses us cannot overcome the light of the world, Jesus Christ.
He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome Him!
Here is his promise to you and to me, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). The hope of Christmas is that you are no longer trapped in spiritual darkness because you have the light of life! You are free now and forever in Christ Jesus. That’s a wonderful story of hope!
But the story of hope is not supposed to terminate with us. The story of the light coming into the darkness is a story that we are to steward. So how do we steward the story of hope this Christmas season?
Look at Jesus’ words to us in Matthew 5:14-16; “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The light of the world calls us the light of the world! What an honor! Why would he call us that? The answer is in verse 16, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The light of the world is in us now, so that we will shine before others! So the way we steward the story of hope, is to do good to others so that our lives shine the love of Christ brightly against the darkness of the world around them so that, by God’s grace, they may see and treasure Jesus.
That’s our mission this Christmas as we steward this story of hope; to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. Often times, however, my mission at Christmas seems to be to buy the perfect present, remember to mail the Christmas cards, visit family, or find the perfect ugly Christmas sweater. It’s a busy season. To help you and your family not forget the light of the world in you and your mission to shine that hope in your everyday life through good deeds, I would challenge you to do two things.
- Participate in lighting advent candles at home. Every time you light a candle as a family you can remind yourselves of this story of hope; “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
- Think through as a family how you will do good to someone else each week of Advent. Maybe as a family you prepare a meal for your neighbors, put together special gifts for the teachers and administrators at school, or write special notes of thanks, encouragement and love for others.
However you choose to let your light shine this Advent season, join me in praying that God will use us this year to call others out of darkness and into his marvelous light!