Text: Luke 2:1-20
Meditation “Light of the World”
This evening, we have come together to remember and to praise God for a most special gift – the gift of His Son. We hear the message through scripture readings and songs and sacrament. Many of us have done so for many many years…. and still there is mystery here that is beyond our understanding. Tonight we remember when heaven met earth in a most unexpected way. It is a tempting to concentrate on the beauty of the Angel choir and miss the the true miracle – God incarnate. That term comes to us from Latin roots, meaning “flesh” and has been in the church for nearly 2000 years, but it is difficult to fully appreciate all that is rolled up into it.
Jesus whom we praise tonight as the “Light of the World” came to this earth in a most humble way. The very one whom, as we will hear John proclaim later in the service “was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” It was this Jesus who was born to a young girl taking shelter in a stable. Fully divine and fully human, as our creeds proclaim. The Lord of the Universe, humbly born to a girl named Mary. He was indeed sent as Light into this dark and hurting world, as Isaiah wrote, “Isaiah 9:2 NKJV “The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.”
But what does it mean to say Jesus is the light of the world? Think for a moment how people behave in the dark, both literally and figuratively. In the dark, we stumble around – we can’t see obstacles in our path the can make us fall or at the very least bruise a toe. A normal wall or a chair becomes a threat if we don’t know where it is. Perhaps the way is familiar, but someone has moved something we didn’t expect. Light shows us where boundaries and edges and hazards lay. Just think about the danger of reaching into the medicine cabinet or under the sink in the dark. How do you know what you have ahold of? Will it heal you or hurt you? Will it clean or will it poison? The will of God functions that way for us. It teaches us and shows us what can lead us into harm. It defines for us what is good and wholesome and what corrupts or kills. We need the light of God in our lives just as much as lights in the house.
Often, in the dark we are fearful of what might be there that could harm us; Our imaginations can run wild and create monsters where none exist. The light of God defeats superstition and fear of the unknown – for God knows and God reaches out in love. The light of God shows us the love of God; it shows us grace, abundant love and forgiveness and inclusion. Monsters such as Pride, greed, prejudice and hate grow best in the dark, where one can pretend that no one sees them for what they really are.
A light in the darkness, even a small one is very welcome company and the dawn is a joyful thing after a long and difficult night. We are instinctively attracted to light, we need it to function well. But a sudden change is uncomfortable. Turn on the lights after being in the dark for a while and we wince at that bright light. I suspect those shepherds in the fields got quite a shock that night. Luke tells us that an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. (Luke 2:10-14 NKJV)
 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The light of heaven – the very Glory of God shown out, actually it shouted out! Glory to God in the highest! Those shepherds weren’t looking for the Glory of God and angels that night, they were guarding the sheep – willing to try to save them from what ever might be lurking out in the darkness. I’ve had the privilege on standing in those Shepherd fields down the hill from Bethlehem. It’s a nice place, rolling hills with several little caves for shelter. It may have been quiet and peaceful that night with the sheep all bedded down for the night, likely back in one of those caves caved into the soft limestone. The shepherds were doing their job, keeping watch, lest some wild animal of thief were to show up. They were watching yes, but not for what actually happened. The glory of God broke in where it was not expected. God announced that they had a savior – that it was in fact God who was watching and shepherding them. The long awaited Messiah – the Christ had come. How where they to know? Because they were to find a newborn – In a manger in a stable of all places! It’s fascinating that the messiah’s birth was celebrated by the angels down there in the Shepherd fields – not at the Stable, not in the palace or town square either. Instead out in the fields to shepherds. God came to his people in a most humble way.
It is one thing to worship the God of creation – distant, all powerful and unapproachable in light and splendor, or thundering in frightening smoke and fire on Mt Sinai, but this – coming to earth as a baby in this way? In that manger in Bethlehem, lay God incarnate, likely bathed in the soft light of a flickering lamp or two. In that light, the shepherds were shown what was both completely ordinary and yet totally extraordinary too. A baby boy and yet the Savior of the world. Jesus the Christ of God – Our Lord and Savior came to this earth so that we could see and begin to understand the love of God and the grace he extends to us. Jesus – the light of the world – God incarnate. Jesus – Immanuel – God with us. Such a wonderful God who shows love in this way. coming in person so that we might know God more fully.
From the first rebellion in the garden, God has never abandoned us. He has reached into the messy, broken world that resulted from that prideful act and made reunion with him possible by the wonderful gift of his Son. The sinless Son of God who lives among us, teaches us, heals us, feeds us and prays for us. It is he, whom John the Baptist declares as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus was born to show us the way to God; born to redeem us through his death and resurrection. All of this began in that humble scene that the shepherds were invited to witness as the Light of God breaks into a dark and needy world.
Here is a final thought to take out with you tonight: During his ministry on earth Jesus himself told his followers two seemingly different things that are both true: John 8:12 NLT “Jesus spoke to the people… and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Interestingly he also said: Matthew 5:14-16 NLT “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Just like those shepherds, let us also return to our fields of life as they did “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”
We have come to the light and now we must share that light in word and deed. The light of the world is here. Let it shine!