"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men."

3rd Sunday in Advent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 1:6-8; 19-28 Sermon
December 11, 2005

Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal): 
6 "Hark The Glad Sound, The Saviour Comes"
8 "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates"
328 "Hail To The Lord's Anointed"
25 "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"


TEXT (vs. 6-9): “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

I like Christmas lights. This time of the year, it is especially enjoyable for me to drive through the streets and neighborhoods which would otherwise be cold and dark, and look at what various people have done with Christmas lights.

Of course I like to put up decorations on the outside of my house. This year it was especially tricky for me to do that, trying to find the last rather warm day to put them up after Thanksgiving. I put them up the afternoon and evening two weeks ago, on November 27th. Even though it was misting rain off and on, I got the job done. And am I ever glad that I did, because the very next day, the temperature dropped 30 degrees.

I have one traditional Christmas decoration that I put up every year. It is a large electric candle. I couldn’t begin to even guess how old the candle is, however I can tell you about the light bulb in the candle. It does have a history, and I’ll share that with you this morning.

When I dug the candle out of the box in the attic this year and plugged it in, the light bulb didn’t light. I figured that it had burnt out, so I replaced it. As I held the bulb in my hand and examined it, it brought back some memories of bygone years.

I brought the light bulb with me today. As you can see, it is pretty ordinary looking. I can tell you that the bulb is red, it was made by General Electric, that it is 7 ½ watts, and it has a normal size Edison screw type base. What you might not be able to tell however, is that there is some black soot streaked down the side, embedded into the red paint. That’s part of this bulb’s history.

Back in the early 1960’s, we had a hardware store in Emerson called the Gamble Store. One day I heard the fire siren sound; and of course like every little boy, I was always curious about where the fire was. Since we lived just across the street from the fire station, I would usually walk over after the fire engines had gone. There was a small blackboard just inside the door, and on it would be written the location of the fire. This particular day, I saw the words “Gamble Store” written on the blackboard.

So I walked the few blocks down to the Gamble Store, and I stood across the street watching while the firemen battled the fire. There was a thick black smoke coming out from under the eaves of the store, and water soaked soot streaked the front windows.

The fire was quickly brought under control and extinguished, but of course there was a lot of damage. Several weeks afterward, the newspaper advertised the “Gamble Store Fire Sale,” where the damaged merchandise was sold rather cheaply.

My father went to the sale; and amongst the stuff he bought was a box filled with various Christmas decorations and spare bulbs. This bulb is from that box my dad brought home; and the soot that streaks this particular light bulb is from that fire.

That happened well over 40 years ago; and ever since that time, this particular bulb has been a very small part of my Christmas. Every year, this soot streaked light bulb has faithfully operated until this Christmas, when I plugged in that electric candle and it didn’t light. However my electric candle is still working, complete with a new light bulb.

I set this old bulb aside instead of throwing it away—why, I’m not exactly sure; except that without it, I wouldn’t have this nifty little object lesson for my sermon illustration.

As I read our text for today and as I was preparing for this sermon, I spotted this bulb sitting in a box on top of my microwave oven in the kitchen. For some reason, I decided to try the bulb again to see if it was actually burnt out, and guess what? It came on, just as it always has done. Maybe I jiggled the filament enough to make it work again, or it just wasn’t making good enough contact, I don’t know. But that 40 plus year old light bulb decided it wasn’t time to give up, at least not yet.

Our text for today from John’s gospel is about light. We are introduced to a man named John—not John the Apostle who is the author of the Gospel, but John the Baptist, who is described as the one who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is described numerous times by Scripture as being the “light of the world.” He is the true light, a light that no darkness could ever overcome. John was the one prophesied by the prophet Isaiah who would come just before Christ to bear witness to him, telling people that the true light had come, and to be prepared for him.

The situation over 2,000 years ago wasn’t a pretty one. There were illnesses and famines that killed many people. The Roman government was heavy-handed and brought about a type of artificial peace by killing every insurgent that dared to challenge their power and authority. Leadership in the land was crooked, corrupt, and lacking. Spiritual leadership had become weak and mundane. People were at the brink of despair, sort of feeling their way around in a world polluted with the darkness and confusion of sin. The people were in need of a real and genuine hope for their lives.

But now, here comes a man sent by God. His name is John. In the midst of political and spiritual darkness, he was sent to tell everyone about God’s light. He was a witness to that Light, to proclaim that Light had arrived. Once again people would be able to see the road and the surroundings. This Light would give their lives purpose and perspective. It would be a light like no one had ever experienced.

So here was John. He wasn’t in Jerusalem with all the powerful religious people. He wasn’t in Rome with all of the powerful political people. No, he was in the small town of Bethany, outside of Jerusalem. He operated in the wilderness, and in places so insignificant that we don’t know where they are today. His ministry was very short too. He was executed by beheading when he was around 30 years of age. But he accomplished the purpose for which God had sent him. He prepared the way for the coming Christ in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. God’s true light was on the horizon, ready to illume the world enshrouded in darkness.

We live in a world filled with sin, and sin is equated with darkness. Our sins have separated us from God, and have taken us away from the light. We can see ourselves as a people sitting in darkness as well. Without light, we are aimlessly groping in the dark. Sin is like the bacteria and fungus that thrives in the dark. The deeper into the darkness we plunge, the more infectious sin becomes. This is what the devil likes. When we’re sitting in the dark, he can do his dirty work most effectively.

But the light of the world, the light of the Gospel is something that God sends to us. He doesn’t want us groping around in the dark with no hope at all. Therefore he sent Jesus to this earth to be a light for all people. He sent Jesus to live, to suffer, to die, and to rise again so that all people might have that light. He sent Jesus to be our light, so that our lives might be illumined. When our sinful lives are exposed to the light of the Gospel, then Satan has to flee. The Gospel tells us that our sins have been forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, we have experienced the light of the Gospel. And suddenly, we have new hope. We have new direction. Our path to heaven is now well lit, and we know that through Jesus, God will take us safely there.

As recipients of the light of Christ, our entire lives are changed. That light is now something that permeates our very being. Everything we say, and do, and are reflects this light.

If we look at Matthew 5, right at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, just after the beatitudes, he gives us these words in verses 14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The light of the world isn’t just something we receive and keep to ourselves; rather it is what we are. Christ is the light, and as believers, we become lights for him. We become lights of the world because God has empowered us to do so. Christ is to continue to live in each of our lives to such a degree, that there should be no question that our entire beings are dedicated to him. When we have this light living within us, then we can’t help but let others see it as well. We don’t hide it or apologize for it; rather we let it shine for all to see.

The reason that we use lights to decorate for Christmas is because Christ is described as the light of the world. Certainly not everyone who puts up Christmas lights is a Christian. Many people will spend tons of money on lavish decorations, and will give no thought as to what they mean—other than maybe that they look pretty.

But when we as Christians put up our Christmas lights, we can do so with a great purpose in mind. Just like John, we can give witness to the light that illumines our lives. As Christians, we are also sent by God to give witness to the light.

As I think about this lonely little light bulb I talked about at the beginning of my sermon, technically it isn’t really anything special. It is a piece of glass and metal with a total vacuum on the inside which protects a tungsten steel filament. When electricity flows through the filament, it heats up and emits light. That’s the way all incandescent light bulbs work. It rolled off the General Electric assembly line one day; and I’m sure that the assembly line workers and others involved had no idea that this little bulb would go through a fire, and still be working over 40 years later. But it still is.

However, as reliable as this light bulb has been, it will eventually wear out. It may burn out for good, or it may be dropped and broken. It is not indestructible.

When we think of our text for today, we can look at the world that is in a state of ruin and destruction. But in the midst of the soot and rubble, we have a light; and regardless of how destructive the circumstances, it continues to shine through bright and clear. But unlike my Christmas light which also withstood the ravages of time, fire, soot, and destruction, the light of Christ will always continue to burn bright. It will never break or wear out. It will always be shining bright, leading souls to heaven.

This year as you drive around and you see the various Christmas lights shining bright in the cold night air, you can be vividly reminded about the light of Christmas that shines in your life. No matter how dark, or cold, or inhospitable the surroundings may be, we have the light of Christ which continues to shine and cut through the darkness.

We might not think that we are very much in this world. But we are the only messengers and spokesmen that God has to use to spread his light.

The Holy Spirit, which gives us this light in the first place, now gives us the power to keep this light shining within us so the world may see this light and share the hope and joy we have.

Therefore, we are like John the Baptist in our text for today. We are sent by God to give witness to this light. May we continue to do this willingly and joyfully so all people may come to know Jesus Christ, the true light of the world, whom God has sent to dispel the darkness forever.