In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Most of you has seen the craze that’s everywhere, light-up tennis shoes. The lights inside the heels of the shoes would pop on with every step you take. Kids love them so much that they would often run into a room, turn off all the lights, and stomp around just to see the light bounce around in the dark room and reflect off the mirrors.
When you entered the sanctuary today, you may have noticed less lighting in the church as all the lights were not on. When darkness wraps around you, it almost presses down on you. Undoubtedly you saw the light from the candles by the altar. However, usually all it takes is one candle to shatter the darkness. Light makes the atmosphere less eerie. As you held your candle on Christmas Eve, what did it do? It brough light and warmth. Tonight, we focus on light as we continue our Lenten sermon series, Promised Treasures.
The theme of light is dominant in all our readings today. The very first thing that God created was light. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). God even separated the light from the darkness. In our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus calls Himself the light of the world. Not only did God create light at the beginning of creation, but He also sent the light of the world in His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Since we are now united with Christ and our heavenly Father through Holy Baptism and faith, we are also light in this world. In Matthew 5:14–16, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Because of Christ’s connection to you, Paul says in our reading from Ephesians, you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
The theme of light and darkness is everywhere in the Bible. Throughout the history of the Church, we’ve always recognized the significance of light and made use of it in every worship service. In the Early Church, after candidates were instructed in the faith, they left a very dark room where they renounced Satan and then entered a brightly lit room before they were Baptized. Then, after their Baptism, they received a lighted candle, to remind them that they were now light in the Lord. Therefore, we give a Baptismal candle to parents of children or to newly Baptized adults. A simple candle signifies that Jesus Christ is the light of the world and that He dwells within them, shining through their lives.
When you held your candle on Christmas Eve, you sensed its warmth and had a secure view of everything around you. It enlightened you. How secure do other people feel in this dark world in which we live without light, hope, and peace? Outside these doors, there’s enormous darkness, a darkness that continues to try and strangle our world. This darkness blinds people from the truth and makes people feel hopeless without a sense of purpose. Darkness always tries to choke out the light. That’s why Paul clearly says to us, take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. . . When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible (Ephesians 5:11, 13).
How open are you to being exposed by the light of truth and God’s Word? Do you really want God to expose your life to His bright light? Quite often, I’m like Adam, trying to hide from God, who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day. It wasn’t until God finally said to Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) that Adam faced the light. At other times, I’m tempted to hide my light like Peter, who denied his Lord in the public light of others. None of us wants to be exposed with our sin because that means we must change and repent. I’d rather run into the dark than step into the light. However, if I refuse God’s Word, I refuse His light. Our sinful nature is much more comfortable in the dark than in the light. But God knows your heart and mine. He knows our adulterous thoughts, greedy intent, and lustful and covetous thoughts. Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs because they looked great on the outside. But inside, they were dead man’s bones. This Lenten season, God shines His light again on you, your heart, and your life. He exposes it all, not that we should run and hide from God, but so that we should die to our dark sin and graciously receive light, love, and forgiveness through Jesus’ wounds and words.
That’s what Lent is all about. More than giving up certain things such as sweets for a period of forty days, Lent is about dying to my sin because Christ Jesus died for me and all my sin. Lent exposes my old life in order to bury it in Christ’s tomb. It’s buried there so that on Easter I may arise with Him again, joyfully in the light of His resurrection.
Jesus Christ is the true light who gives light to every man. Although His life was extinguished on the cross amid total darkness, Jesus bore the full weight of this world’s sin and darkness in order to bring light to us and the world. Jesus was lonely and forsaken by God, and yet by such rejection, Jesus brought light and life to the world and crushed the darkness of sin, death, and hell forever. The cross always brightly reflects joy, love, and mercy because Jesus suffered there to bring light and love. Even though your sins are like scarlet, they are now as white as snow (see Isaiah 1:18). From His cross shines a new beam! It pierces through your darkest and most depressive thoughts and fills you with peace and joy. The light of Jesus shines like the sun, and, like the moon, you reflect His light to others.
Have you ever visited someone who was lost in the gloom or shadow of darkness? Maybe they were grieving the death of a loved one, or perhaps they were badly broken because of the loss of a relationship. Over time, you listened to them and prayed with them and for them. Over time, and after continued words of comfort, they regained their joy and light. Soon, they realized that the clouds of pain had passed, and the bright light of Christ’s cross beamed again with grace, forgiveness, love, and mercy. Christ’s light continues to shine through you and your words every day. Christ’s shines His light in the darkness and we see His light and the darkness does not overcome it!