Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content


Home > Sermons

Jesus Came to Be the Light

Light accompanied Jesus at his birth, and it’s been with him, and us, ever since.

About twenty years ago a house near the entrance of our subdivision kept their Christmas lights burning long into January, even though the Christmas season was long past. Even through the first of February those outside lights were burning every night. About the middle of February, I became a little bit critical and said, "You know, if I were too lazy to take my Christmas lights down, I think I'd at least turn them off at night." But about the middle of March, a sign outside of their house explained why they'd left the lights on. It said simply, "Welcome home, Jimmy." We learned that family had a son in Vietnam, and they had unashamedly left their Christmas lights on in anticipation of his return.

Lights are a symbol of hope. A person lost in a dark cave turns a corner and is relieved to see a ray of sunlight breaking through a crack. A person adrift on a life raft in the middle of the ocean at night is excited when he's able to say, "I see the light of a ship on the horizon."

People in darkness are delighted to see a light. It's a symbol of hope. In John 12:46 Jesus said, "I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." The world in which we live is engulfed in spiritual darkness, and people are groping to find a way out. But Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." The attributes of light reflect the hopeful impact that the light of Jesus Christ still makes on our lives today.

When somebody takes a flash picture, you notice. Or if a spotlight is turned on on a dark stage, your eyes are immediately drawn to the light. Isaiah 9:2 reads, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

Jesus attracted attention at his birth through the use of light.

Jesus' birth attracted more attention than you would think, considering the circumstances. He was born to peasant parents. Who was going to notice? He was born away from home, and there weren't any grandparents to brag about him. He was born in Bethlehem, an insignificant Judean village. He was born at night when everybody was asleep. He was born 1,450 years before the invention of the printing press and 1,900 years before the invention of the radio. Who in the world was going to notice? But God saw that Jesus attracted attention even at his birth.

"There were shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. The brightness of that angel immediately captivated the shepherds, and they were frightened. The angel informed them the Messiah had been born. The Bible says immediately the shepherds hurried to the place where they had been told, and they found it just as the angel had said.

We read, "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angels praising God." It wasn't just one angel, but the sky was aglow with angels praising God. The shepherds ran to see this thing that the angels told them about, and they worshiped the Christ child.

Then the Bible says, "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The light was beginning to shine, and it was beginning to draw attention. Jesus was the talk of the city for a few days.

Jesus still attracts attention through the use of light.

When Jesus grew up, he became the center of attention. We read so many times that large crowds followed him. On one occasion 5,000 men heard him preach. At another time, the crowds were so massive Jesus had to get into a boat and push away from shore so the people could see and hear him.

From the time he was born until the time he died, Jesus, like a light, attracted people and attention, and he still does today. He said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me."

People may be turned off by organized religion. They may be repulsed by hypocritical church leaders, but there is something about Jesus that still captivates attention. He is an irresistible light. It is our task as Christians to reflect that light in our lives. Jesus said, "You're the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden."

If we exalt Jesus Christ in our lives and in our church, people will be drawn to him. But when we try to stay in the spotlight ourselves, the world senses it is an ego trip, and they are repulsed. It was said of John the Baptist, "He was not the light, but he came only as a witness to the light."

A beacon guides home an airplane in foggy conditions. A lighthouse steers a ship away from danger. The reflectors on the highway in the median will guide a driver through wet conditions. Jesus came as a light to guide us.

When he was born in Bethlehem, a special star appeared in the east. It attracted some magi, some astrologers, and it told them a special king had been born, and that star guided them to their destination to find him. Matthew 2:9 says, "They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was, and when they saw the star they were overjoyed. And they found the Christ child and worshiped him.

Jesus came to give direction to our lives. In Luke 1:79, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied the Messiah would be like the rising sun to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Jesus said in John 12:35, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark doesn't know where he's going." Jesus said, "I'm the good shepherd. My sheep know my voice and they follow me.

Before he ascended, Jesus said to his followers, "I will not leave you without a guide. I will send the Holy Spirit, and he will guide you into all truth."

When you face a major decision in your life, you don't have to make that decision alone. He will guide you. He doesn't always speak to you through an audible voice or send a message by letter, but Proverbs 3:56 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."

The Bible becomes a lamp unto your feet and a light onto your path. The Holy Spirit illuminates your conscience so you have more of a sensitivity of right and wrong. As you begin to read and hear counsel, that helps you to be sensitive to his direction. He will direct you as a Christian at times when you aren't even aware of his providence. I can't tell you how many times in my life that just the right person, just the right circumstance, just the right protection has been there. John 8:12 reads, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."

Light is always more powerful than darkness.

Light is always more powerful than darkness. If you go into Mammoth Cave, and the guide turns out all the lights, it is pitch black. All he has to do is light one candle or flashlight, and all that darkness cannot smother that light.

Jesus came into a spiritually dark world. Herod heard that a king had been born, and he was threatened by that. He deceived the Wise Men by saying, "When you find where this Christ child is, come back and tell me so I can go and worship him too." But being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the Wise Men returned to their country by another route. When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the magi, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the babies born in Bethlehem and the surrounding vicinity two years of age and younger.

The Bible says there was great weeping and mourning heard in Ramah. Ramah is far from Bethlehem. In other words, Herod's slaughter of the infants was widespread. It was a dark hour, but the light of Jesus Christ continued to shine.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said. "Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child and kill him." Joseph got up and took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, and he stayed there until the death of Herod.

Herod, the king of darkness, died; Jesus, the tiny infant of righteousness continued to live because light is more powerful than darkness.

When Jesus was crucified, darkness engulfed the whole area between noon and three o'clock in the afternoon. His body was taken from the cross and placed in a dark, sealed tomb. But the Bible says on the first day of the week an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled back the stone from the tomb and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him they shook and became like dead men. The dazzling light of God's power came into that tomb, and it was more powerful than the darkness of death. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

Dr. James Dobson relates a story of an elderly woman named Stella Thornhope who was struggling with her first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few months prior through a slow developing cancer. Now, several days before Christmas, she was almost snowed in by a brutal weather system. She felt terribly much so she decided she was not going to decorate for Christmas. Late that afternoon the doorbell rang, and there was a delivery boy with a box. He said, "Mrs. Thornhope?" She nodded. He said, "Would you sign here?" She invited him to step inside and closed the door to get away from the cold.

She signed the paper and said, "What's in the box?" The young man laughed and opened up the flap, and inside was a little puppy, a golden Labrador Retriever. The delivery boy picked up the squirming pup and explained, "This is for you, Ma'am. He's six weeks old, completely housebroken." The young puppy began to wiggle in happiness at being released from captivity.

"Who sent this?" Mrs. Thornhope asked. The young man set the animal down and handed her an envelope and said, "It's all explained here in this envelope, Ma'am. The dog was bought last July while its mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift to you. The young man then handed her a book. In desperation she asked again, "Who sent me this, this puppy?" As the young man turned to leave, he said, "Your husband, Ma'am. Merry Christmas."

She opened up the letter from her husband. He had written it three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. The letter was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting for the day when she would join him. He had sent her this young animal to keep her company until then. She wiped away the tears, put the letter down; and then remembering the puppy at her feet, she picked up that golden furry ball and held it to her neck

Then she looked out the window at the lights that outlined the neighbor's house, and she heard from the radio in the kitchen the strains of "Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come." Suddenly Stella felt the most amazing sensation of peace washing over her. Her heart felt a joy and a wonder greater than the grief and loneliness. And she spoke to the dog, "Little fella," she said, "it's just you and me. But you know what?" she said. "There's a box down in the basement I'll bet you'd like. It's got a little Christmas tree in it and some decorations and some lights that are going to impress you. And there's a manger scene down there. How about let's go get it?"

God has a way of sending a signal of light to remind us life is stronger than death. Light is more powerful than darkness. God is more powerful than Satan. Good will overcome evil. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light," the prophet said. "On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light had dawned."

Romantic men and women love candlelight dinners. You know why? Because in a darkened room we look better. The flaws and the wrinkles are just not as discernible. We all look better. Darkness conceals reality.

1 Thessalonians 5:7 says, "For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night." Most crimes, most drunkenness, most immorality occurs under the cover of darkness. It's easier to conceal our behavior. Jesus was arrested at night. He said, "I was teaching in the daytime in the temple. Why didn't you arrest me then?" Then he added, "Now is your hour when darkness reigns." But light exposes reality.

About a month after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him into the temple, and there was a prophet by the name of Simeon, to whom had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. They put the baby Jesus in his arms, and Simeon prayed, "Lord, now you can dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles." The Messiah, Jesus, was going to be a revelation to the Gentiles and to the Jews of what God and truth and man were all about.

If you're trying to conceal something, you don't want the truth exposed. If you're trying to conceal secret sin, you don't want the light of Jesus Christ. Job 12:22 says, "God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light." That's one of the reasons so many people rejected Jesus Christ. He made them feel uncomfortable in their hidden motives and secret sins. John 3:20 reads "Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

Once you walk in the light and once you see reality, you're never content to walk in the darkness again, because reality is we're not here by accident. We're here because God has created us for a distinct purpose. We bear the image of God.

Reality is we're not free to do as we please. We're accountable to the Creator of this universe, who has set some distinctive guidelines about how we're to live.

Reality is I'm not a very good person and neither are you. We've fallen way short of what God wants us to be.

But reality is God loved us anyway, and he came down to the earth in the form of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and arose from the dead to demonstrate that he's God in the flesh.

Reality is we can't make it on our own. It is by grace you are saved through faith, not of yourselves lest anybody should boast.

Reality is there's no hope in this dark world apart from the light of Jesus Christ, who came into this world to show us the way, to attract us to himself, and to guide us into all truth.

A painter painted a bleak picture of a winter scene. It depicted a storm sweeping across the countryside. Over in the corner there was a cabin, but it still looked dead and hopeless. But with one small stroke, that painter dramatically transformed that picture. He took the tip of his brush, dipped it in gold paint, touched one window of the cabin, and the golden glow from that cabin transformed that picture from coldness to invitation to come in; from a picture of death to life, from a picture of gloom to gladness. Jesus said, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."

Robert Russell is minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is heard weekly on the national radio broadcast, "The Living Word. His most recent book is Money: A User's Manual.

(c) Robert Russell

Preaching Today Tape #195


A resource of Christianity Today International

Bob Russell is a speaker, chairman of the board of the Londen Institute, and author of When God Builds a Church (Howard).

Related sermons

God's Christmas Grace

God orchestrated Jesus' birth to bring us grace.

Levi's Genes

We tend to gloss over these verses, but there's so much information about us, about the human condition, and about our Savior buried between the lines.
Sermon Outline:

Introduction: Light is a symbol of hope.

I. Jesus attracted attention at his birth through the use of light.

II. Jesus attracted attention, as an adult, like a light does.

III. Light is always more powerful than darkness.

Conclusion: Once we walk in light, we're never content to walk in darkness again.